Special Report: Living Deaf Part 1

Some of us never think twice when we hear the dreadful alarm blare, forcing us out of bed or the smoke detector sound off for a fire.  But there are many individuals around the region thriving without these sounds. 

“American Sign Language” is not just a visual language and people think it’s a visual representation of English, and it’s not.”

There’s a close-knit community here in the Northland. 

One that not open eyes figuratively, but literally. 

“It really involves your whole body and your face you see all the emotions come out and it’s just really a beautiful thing to me,” said UMD Senior Kendra Brolsma. 

And when it comes to senses, feeling and sight, something second nature to some, becomes critical to others.  

Considered severe weather warnings, that loud alarm is great for the hearing, but not for the hearing impaired.  It probably won’t get their attention, but things can be enhanced. 

“A weather radio can be outfitted with a bed shaker or a pillow shaker so when a warning is issued in the middle of the night and a person is sleeping, it will shake their pillow,” said Carol Christenson, Warning Coordination Meteorologist. 

And if you’re wide awake, strobe lights. 

“Big, nasty, really obnoxious lights that start going and hopefully that will grab someone’s attention,” said Christenson.  

Devices like these and education are key for deaf and hearing individuals alike, and one link between the two is right here in the Northland. 

“And you know I kind of play around with things and I mine and everything and I see them laugh and I don’t have to scare them”

Maroon and gold, booming with Bulldog Pride. 

“I love to see students have that light bulb go on,great they get it and start using their facial grammar and they start remembering the signs and everything,” said Sign Language Instructor, Joanna Langdon. 

Since 2009, the University of Minnesota-Duluth has been an integral part of the deaf community. 

“We have around 600 students that take ASL classes every year,” said Nancy Diener, Assistant Professor of ASL. 

And they all start at the beginning. 

“The first day of class I just love, because I just start with signing and they’re all like deer in the headlights.  They have no clue. And they’re all going ‘oh my god, he’s deaf! What did I do?’ And I’m shocked and they’re all just really, you know, and I’m waving and like are you alive?” said Justin Small, Sign Language Instructor. 

It’s not too often you find a college classroom silent, quiet enough to hear the subtle ticket of a clock on the wall. But for some deaf instructors, the teaching is quite loud, or at least expressively so.  And loud out of the classroom too. 

“I love the kind of music like rap and for a white woman you might think, this is weird, but I love rap music, you know the sound and the big bass and everything, I love it, I love it,” said Sign Language Instructor, Joanne Langdon. 

And just like with any parent, music can sometimes be a little too, well, intense. 

“And oh my gosh, when I look up rap lyrics, some of it is not what I would let my kids listen to so that kind of stuff and it shocked me a lot,” said Langdon. 

The Northland’s deaf community is extremely, passionately welcoming. 

The next generation of signers and interpreters has a rock solid foundation. 

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