HCC, local advocates celebrating deaf culture with free conference

Holyoke Community College
Holyoke Community College(Holyoke Community College)
Published: Apr. 22, 2023 at 9:22 AM EDT
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HOLYOKE, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Holyoke Community College will host a free conference this afternoon to celebrate Deaf culture.

Baystate Deaf Senior Citizens, New England Deaf Senior Citizens, and HCC’s Deaf Studies program and ASL Club will be in the college’s Leslie Phillips Theater and the theater lobby on the second floor of the Fine & Performing Arts Building Saturday afternoon from 1 to 6 p.m.

Admission is free and does not require advanced registration.

The conference will feature a series of speakers who will lead discussions that highlight deaf experiences in the Massachusetts community and beyond. Speakers include:

  • Ivy Velez, M.S.: A grassroots Latina Deaf community advocate from Marlboro. The eldest daughter of Deaf Puerto Rican parents, she works to coordinate for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Supports at the Department of Developmental Services statewide. She will present at 1 p.m. with a workshop titled, “Why is Social Advocacy Important in our Deaf Community?”
  • Ruth Moore: A Deaf advocate and retired educator from Hadley. She holds a master’s degree in Deaf education from Smith College and a bachelor’s degree in education from Gallaudet University. She is a former guest lecturer at Smith College, assistant professor at Hampshire College, and communication access training specialist for the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. At 2 p.m., she will moderate a panel discussion about the Deaf community in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Janis Cole, Ph. D.: A feminist, ASL/English interpreter/translator, educator/consultant, and social justice community forum leader/facilitator. She is also semi-retired after over 40 years of teaching at Boston University, Northeastern University, and Gallaudet University, where her focus was on Deaf cultural studies. She also boasts a professional acting career on Broadway with works such as Children of a Lesser God (1980-82). She also appeared in the National Theatre of the Deaf in its 1977 season and has served as a director and stage manager for decades. At 4 p.m., she will perform “Vision Through Deaf Eyes, Past, Present, Future.”

“We are very happy to be able to finally host this conference, which had been postponed since 2020 due to the pandemic,” said Carol-Ann Smalley, an ASL interpreter and learning specialist in HCC’s Office for Students with Disabilities and Deaf Services. “In past years, this was an annual conference that was held on a much larger scale at Hampshire College. The Deaf senior citizens groups really pushed to bring it back. By doing so we are honoring the historical legacy of the conference and also helping to preserve and share what it means to be part of the Massachusetts Deaf community for current and future generations.”

Refreshments and vendor booths will also be available to attendees from 3:15 to 4 p.m. in the theater lobby.