Over the years that I have written this column, I have often shared my struggles with getting medical care and communication facilitated by Tactile ASL (TASL) interpreters. It is an on-going struggle that can be very frustrating. Often you feel like you are fighting a losing battle, but then a breakthrough happens, and your strength to fight is renewed. There is no way to describe self-advocacy other than It is a fight, but a fight worth fighting. Truth is, everyone needs to self-advocate because no one is going to win the battle alone. we each have to fight our individual battles, but ultimately, we are also waging the war together with others who are self-advocating. We help each other as we make our needs known. Anyone can self-advocate. You just need to learn how. Fortunately, there are Deaf and DeafBlind people out there who have been learning how to self-advocate the hard way that are now teaching others how. I recently joined those ranks.
A few weeks ago, I attended a state workshop here in Georgia taught by Bren Yuko Yunashko called DeafBlind Self-Advocacy Training. A Deaf Self-Advocacy Training class was held simultaneously at the same location. The curriculum was developed and tested by the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers over a 6 year year period culminated by a Train the Trainer session in 2011 at Gallaudet University. The class I attended was to give us the training as an overview and prepare us to teach the course to other Deaf and DeafBlind. That is our mission here in the state of Georgia. We want to put the power to create change into the hands of the individual.
The course is based on an “Of, by, and for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind” philosophy. It is important for the course to be presented by the very people who understand and have faced the same struggles as the audience. The course is made up of 7 modules to give you the skills and the knowledge to self-advocate. The modules are designed to help the student define self-advocacy, understand the ADA law, and introduce self-esteem and self-determination as the mindset that people need to have to achieve self-advocacy goals. The modules also give better understanding of the roles of interpreters and the services they provide in live and video remote services. all of which are important facets to understand and know when self-advocating.
In addition, discrimination is discussed and techniques for self-advocating for reasonable accommodations are presented in detail. Students also learn how provision of reasonable accommodations benefits the hearing, as well. The course provides a curriculum packed with important knowledge and time-tested strategies and solid resources to best empower you to fulfill your self-advocacy goals. Learning to face the struggles with success is the reward for you and also others who will come behind you.
I highly recommend this course. My own course was not only informative and self-empowering, it was also a great deal of fun as I strengthen friendships with other DeafBlind people I seldom see and met new ones who are now forever friends. I can better my life and help others to understand my needs which will only increase my participation and enjoyment of life and its many activities. Do yourself a favor, and ask your state Deaf and DeafBlind services agencies about this National Consortium of Interpreter Education course. If they don’t have it, begin your self-advocacy by asking that they bring this course, Deaf/DeafBlind Self-advocacy Training to your area. Let’s work together toward change for all of us. We deserve it. We can get it. We just need to know how to best to teach others how to give us what we need.