ORLANDO | Each year Courtney Cannon asks her American Sign Language (ASL) students to come up with ways to educate their Bishop Moore Catholic High School peers about deafness.
The project takes many forms, but this year her students chose to create mini-videos and morning announcements to share during Deaf Awareness Week, Sept. 20-26. The informative videos found on the school’s Facebook and YouTube pages are less than one minute and teach through role playing and interviews.
Nearly 10,000,000 people in the United States are hard-of-hearing, and close to one million are “functionally deaf,” according to the Survey of Income and Program Participation, a national survey that regularly collects information regarding deafness in the United States.
Cannon lost her own hearing when she was 3 months old, after having spinal meningitis. She didn’t learn ASL until she was 25 years old.
“ASL has given me access to understanding in situations where I most likely would not be able to read lips or follow,” she said. In fact, in one of the videos, she shares her own difficulties in communicating during COVID-19. With everyone wearing masks, there are no lips to read, making it difficult to communicate with others.
In the video, Colby, a senior ASL 4 student, interviews Cannon. The video — seen by clicking HERE — shows both Colby and Cannon using sign language. While it does not have sound, a translation of the questions and answers are displayed on the screen. Colby mouths her words, as she signs, while Cannon signs the words.
Colby asked Cannon to name three challenges of communicating during the pandemic. Cannon explains that masks even hide facial expressions and limit a personal conversation, which makes going outside the home difficult.
Cannon has been teaching at Bishop Moore since 2017, and added ASL 4 a year later. She said ASL made a difference in her life – from “access to ASL interpreters” to getting “the best of both worlds with hearing and deaf.” She said it enabled “having rich friendships in the deaf culture (which) has helped me understand who I am as a deaf individual.”
Her students are also gaining understanding and appreciation. Many said they joined the class out of a desire to communicate with the hearing impaired. They have learned much about the culture through Cannon and are grateful to become interpreters themselves and bridge communication gaps.
The class of seniors also noted they wanted to “mirror the saying of, ‘Jesus teaching a man to fish.’” Those they teach can in turn communicate with the deaf community on their own.
Almost 20 students participated in the educational project. Cannon hopes it helps others “learn more about deaf culture and how to approach or handle interactions with the deaf community and not dismiss them just because you don’t know how to communicate with them.”