Making Frederick a deaf-friendly city

Belated Resolutions: Supporting Every Community in this City

by Jennifer Harbaugh. 0 Comments

We are a month into 2014, but I think the belated resolutions I am proposing for the city of Frederick still can be used for the next 11 months. I asked my friends what they would like to see me write about. There were several good suggestions, which I do intend to write about, but one person threw out a word that caught me off guard. She responded: "Hipsters." I chuckled at first, because at first I thought she meant “hippies” and that she was being sarcastic. But as I learned more ... read more

More candidate responses

by Jennifer Harbaugh. 0 Comments

I hope everyone got a chance to do pumpkin patches, corn mazes, have a bonfire, and all that before it gets too cold!

This is the third in a series of articles of the General Election candidates' responses to my questions:

1) To make Frederick a much improved Deaf Friendly city, it starts in the political offices. So, how will you, as the running candidate for the position, help the Deaf residents thrive in this city?

2) How will you contribute to the Deaf community outside of the office?

3) Sept 23- 28 is the Deaf Awareness Week, any general comments on how much you know about the Deaf community or Deaf culture?

Kelly Russell (Democrat)

First, thank you for pointing out that we are in International Week of the Deaf (IWD). The city has not commemorated it in the past. I have made arrangementsfor the city to issue an official Proclamation for IWD to do just that. It will be presented on Wednesday, October 2 at 3:00 pm at City Hall in the first floor Board Room. The superintendent of Maryland School for the Deaf (MSD) will be there to accept it, along with some students and staff. I invite you and any other folks you want to invite to come and participate. There will be an interpreter there. I hope to make this an annual event and grow the participation.

To ensure that all residents thrive we need to work together to raise awareness, to communicate more effectively, to understand the cultures that exist, and participate with one another to solve problems. This is universal, but can be more challenging when communication is hampered by language barriers. I would like to work more closely with our Deaf, deaf, and hard of hearing population to understand what service gaps do exist. We need to understand how we may fall short of the needs and expectations of these residents in order to effectively address them.

Our police academy has partnered in the past with MSD to have discussions with student officers about how ASL differs from exact English, and the cultural differences that need to be understood. I would like to revive such efforts, and expand them throughout the city's entire employee base. I have also made inquiry into closed captioning for our public meetings that are televised. I still need to do some more exploration into how we may be able to make that happen.

I learned how to finger spell when I was in Elementary school and I took ASL I and II at FCC in the early 90's. However since I have not kept up with it, I am very much out of practice. I am working to refresh and restore what I learned. I hope to develop better skills to be a more effective resource for our residents.

You can find more information about Kelly Russell at this link: http://www.votekellyrussell.com/

Katie Nash (Republican)

1. I believe that if we improve our communication efforts via our website, we benefit everyone. I am looking forward to developing tools that help the City track the service delivery that we provide for our citizens. Improving accessibility could be one of those tracked performance measures. This would be online and would improve our government by engaging more citizens in the process, in my opinion.

With MSD as a community stakeholder, our community has a true opportunity to become a leader in local government, statewide if not nationwide. My job would be to facilitate this opportunity and remove any barriers that it has to become more inclusive. I believe that our Deaf culture is part of who we are as a City.

2. I look forward to learning more about the ways I can contribute to the Deaf community - targeted, meaningful, dialogue on how to make our community better includes inclusion. One way I could help would be to continue to work through communication issues that we have at City Hall. I am an IT contractor by trade and work within the requirements of accessibility established by the federal government for Deaf employees. There are some challenges to our current social media culture and additional education is always needed.

3. Thank you for making your voice heard and contacting me directly! I have a lot to learn and I want to learn about how we can improve our status quo.

You can find more information about Katie Nash at this link: http://nashforfrederick.com/

Donna Kuzemchak (Democrat)

1. I agree, making Frederick Deaf Friendly starts in political offices. I fought tooth and nail to get a deaf interpreter in the city budget. Unfortunately, all I could get was agreement to provide interpreters when requested by citizens. I recently heard closed-captioning isn't provided for city meetings, and I will certainly fight that battle if necessary. I have a feeling once other candidates find out this isn't provided, they will be quick to add it to the budget and do what is necessary to provide closed captioning for all meetings.

I don’t presume to know the issues of the Deaf community, but I believe in treating all people equally. I will help Deaf residents thrive just as I’ve helped many individuals and groups throughout the city deal with issues in their communities. If someone brings an issue to my attention, I work with them to try to solve the issue. I’d be happy to work with the Deaf community to help make Frederick more Deaf Friendly.

I am also happy to speak with classes at MSD about government whether I win the election or not. The only way to change government is from the inside, and I’d love to have more deaf citizens get involved to help government be more accessible to all.

2. I’ve had numerous deaf friends, and took ASL classes to communicate with them better. Writing on paper was sometimes quicker, and I've certainly resported to it when my ignorance (or slowness) in signing doesn't allow proper communication. However, Frederick has a deaf population with its own Culture. I'm thrilled we are teaching sign language in most schools so children at least have a rudimentary understanding and will be able to communicate better in the future. I would like to see the city also offer classes in Deaf Culture so we aren't speaking the same language in one way (signing) but causing misunderstandings because we don't understand the culture.

3. I know about the Deaf community through my interactions with deaf neighbors, deaf friends and their families, and teachers at MSD. As with all cultures, a person can’t possibly understand it unless they are completely immersed in it. I know there are factions within the Deaf community just as there are factions in any culture. As with all cultures, some want to stay separate from the mainstream as a way to protect their culture and others want to integrate their culture into the mainstream. I understand both viewpoints, but selfishly hope integration; as I believe all people coming together provides us all with more than we can possibly achieve alone!

You can find more information about Donna Kuzemchak at this link: www.votefordonnak.com

More candidate responses

by Jennifer Harbaugh. 0 Comments

I hope you had a chance to read the mayoral candidates' responses to the questions I asked them in an email. This week, I will continue with three of the alderman candidates and their responses. 

I am posting the questions again as a reminder:

1) To make Frederick a much improved Deaf Friendly city, it starts in the political offices. So, how will you, as the running candidate for the position, help the Deaf residents thrive in this city? 2) How will you contribute to the Deaf community outside of the office? 3) Sept 23- 28 is the Deaf Awareness Week, any general comments on how much you know about the Deaf community or Deaf culture? Alan Imhoff (Republican): 1. While I know a little about the Deaf community here in Frederick, I need to learn more. I need to know more about the remaining barriers in functioning daily in a hearing society. Once I understand more about their challenges, I can try to find ways to help overcome those barrier . I see many from the Deaf community regularly coming into a certain coffee shop and using it as gathering place just like any other group wanting to meet. They blend in. That what I would like to see throughout the city, a blending in of the two languages, spoken and signed. 2. Working with Maryland School for the Deaf to expand their outreach of what the school has to offer. A few years ago I attended a play, Up the Down Staircase, at the school and sat mesmerized by the ballet of the deaf actors signing while the voice-over seemed to fade into the background. Awareness and understanding of this growing community within Frederick is needed so that any business can learn to have deaf individuals as their customers. 3. I have had the opportunity to work with members of the Deaf community for over two decades. A good friend of mine taught carpentry there for over 20 years. I met David Denton when he was superintendent and still count him among my best friends. My daughters were involved in learning to sign in elementary school and I have had the pleasure of teaching several deaf students at FCC. I am always amazed by the “artistry” of the process of signing and was thoroughly impressed by it when I attended a student play at the Maryland School for the Deaf. You can find more information about Alan Imhoff here. Philip Dacey (Republican) Frederick has a unique relationship with the Deaf community because it plays such an important role in the success of the City.  The key to understanding and working with any community is communication.  The City has an obligation to ensure that there is open communication between the government and this important constituency. I attended a terrific training conducted by the Governor's Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing.  The training was informative about differing perspectives on deaf and hard of hearing culture and provided practical advice to assist customer service interaction with members of the community.  I would encourage this training for all City employees as it helps foster an understanding of the diverse spectrum that comprises the deaf and hard of hearing community, with the goal of improving service to the community. You can find more information about Philip Dacey at this link: http://phildacey.com/about/ David Schmidt (Republican) 1. The reason a city is formed is that its residents want an increase of services. There is something that county or state is not providing, and they bond together to build a community that at a higher cost, provides bigger and better services. True to that mission, the City of Frederick has to be intentional about reaching out to every part of our community. We can't just be reactive to people's needs, we have to seek out and proactively create an environment where every single citizen can succeed. Specifically, I would ask the deaf community to provide a comprehensive list where the City is failing to live up to its promise of equal opportunity. We can then walk through together, line by line, and create a plan with real action. 2. I will be an advocate for deaf community. Being an alderman will introduce me to people involved in the education system, and regional representatives. I can use those opportunities as a platform for increasing education about the deaf community, and teach the leaders in the deaf community how to effectively lobby for services they find lacking.   3. Growing up I was taught a bit of ASL and learned to sign a couple of songs during my childhood. I was blessed to have teachers in my life that taught us more than just ASL but about introduced us to the culture of the deaf community. Something that stuck out to me, is how important the collective culture is to the deaf community, and the strong bonds that are formed within it. There is a lesson to be learned by the broader culture about being able to depend on your friends and neighbors.   You can find more information about David Schmidt at this link: http://www.voteschmidt.com/   See you all next week for more politics! 

Frederick’s general elections are approaching

by Jennifer Harbaugh. 0 Comments

Fall is here... That means, harvest season is here: corm mazes, apple cider, pumpkin carvings, falling leaves, and lovely weather...

But it also means Frederick's general elections are approaching.

A co-worker gave me much needed feedback one day after skimming through one of my articles. He said that in order to make Frederick a much improved Deaf friendly city, it starts with the political system that operates the city. We can't have a city that thrives just only on the community support and the fact that the Maryland School for the Deaf is here. We need people who work in the political system to support and understand how to respect and work with the Deaf community.

As the general elections are coming, the co-worker who gave me that tip, also suggested that I send an e-mail to all mayoral and alderman candidates asking them a few questions about if they were elected, how would they help the Deaf community and their knowledge about the Deaf community and culture in general.

So, this is the first of a series of responses from all the candidates I will be posting over the next few weeks.

The questions I asked were:

1) To make Frederick a much improved Deaf Friendly city, it starts in the political offices. So, how will you, as the running candidate for the position, help the Deaf residents thrive in this city?

2) How will you contribute to the Deaf community outside of the office?

3) Sept 23- 28 is the Deaf Awareness Week, any general comments on how much you know about the Deaf community or Deaf culture?

Here are the responses from all mayoral candidates:

Jennifer Dougherty (Other):

1. We need to build awareness into our daily city operations. When I served as Mayor, we worked hard to build skills with our Police Department because in a crisis situation, communication barriers can make the situation worse. We will continue to do that and work to improve our translation for hearing impaired at meetings.

We also implemented the reverse 911 system for emergencies and worked with the Neighborhood Advisory Councils to create a voluntary sign-up database of special needs citizens who may need extra help in case of local emergencies.

2. I would pick up where I left off, having regular meetings with the leadership, staff and students at MSD to build awareness of issues and relationships...of course, I try to do that with everyone.

3. Having MSD in Frederick gives us an opportunity to meet and know more hearing impaired people that some cities. Having an openness to communicate - whether through sign language or written notes - is the only thing most people want. When I was sworn into office in 2002, we had the Singing Hands Chorus perform, it was very moving for everyone. I hope we can stay on a positive path with the hearing and non-hearing residents.

You can find more information about Jennifer Dougherty at this link: http://www.jenniferformayor.com/

Randy McClement (R):

1. To be honest with you, I try never to distinguish the residents of this great city by their gifts OR their challenges. We happen to have a thriving population of Deaf citizens, principally due to the location of the Maryland School for the Deaf.

During my four years as the Mayor, I have worked with the School, staff, students and neighbors to keep the South Market Street corridor and community surrounding the school safe for our Deaf students. I have also placed a significant focus on enhancing our digital presence, recognizing that many of our Deaf resident’s lives are enhanced by access to public information through the Internet. Our Police Department has teamed with MSD to create a unique partnership to serve the deaf community better and enhance public safety.

2. I will continue and expand the types of initiatives I mentioned above. My door is open at City Hall, and I will use our NAC (Neighborhood Advisory Councils) feedback to address any and all issues that impact our community, including the interests and concerns of the Deaf community.

3. Instead of a list of accomplishments or self-congratulatory notices, let me just say that my concern has always been, and will always be, the general welfare of our citizens. I look forward to working to make the quality of life memorable for all, expanding opportunities and choices, and doing my best to remove burdens and obstacles for every single citizen of the City of Frederick. I value the important and lasting contributions that Deaf citizens have made to our collective city life.

You can find more information about Randy McClement at this link: http://www.reelectrandy.com/

Karen Young (D):

1. I would arrange meeting opportunities with Deaf people in area to find out what are the issues of concern for Frederick's Deaf residents. What are the positive aspects of life in Frederick for these residents and the negatives. How can elected officials make a difference?

2. I would increase my knowledge base about the history of deafness in general, how Deaf people have related to the hearing community, locally and in other cultures. I would also familiarize myself with the communication options available for hearing people wanting to increase relationships with deaf people.

3. I have started to read a book entitled, "If a Tree Falls: A Family's Quest to Hear and Be Heard" by Jennifer Rosner. The author explores family, silence and what it means to be heard. When her daughters are born deaf, Rosner is stunned. Then she discovers a history of deafness in her family going back generations to the Jewish enclaves of Eastern Europe. She imagines her relatives, who showed surprising creativity in dealing with a world that preferred to ignore them, and shares her journey into the modern world of deafness, exploring whether she, a mother with perfect hearing, will hear her children.

You can find more information about Karen Young at this link: http://karenyoung2013.com/

See you all next week for another batch of responses from the alderman candidates!

Interview with Peter Brehm

by Jennifer Harbaugh. 0 Comments

The Frederick LGBTQ Community Center reached out to the deaf community this summer and looked for a liaison to help merge the Frederick LGBTQ community and the deaf community. I gladly volunteered because I felt it was important to get both communities together. Both communities can help each other to thrive in this city by working together and supporting each other. Since both communities are going through the same struggles and that is trying to get the rights and equality that we all deserve.

As the liaison, I felt it was really important to have an article that raises awareness about Frederick LGBTQ Community, what they do, and what Frederick residents can do for their loved ones or friends who are LGBTQ.

Peter Brehm, a board member, of the Frederick LGBTQ Community Center was kind to answer my questions in an e-mail interview.

When was Frederick LGBTQ Community Center founded?

2012

By Whom?

Austin Beach, Cindie Beach, and Brian Walker

What made them decide to establish it?

A recognition that Frederick needs an organization that can support, educate, link, organize, and provide outreach to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community and its allies

What's your role in the center?

I am on the Board of Directors and serve as Treasurer. I am also active with the Adult Services and Marketing Committees

What is Frederick LGBTQ Community Center's goal with LGBTQ residents, allies, and non-allies?

To become the leading organization for LGBTQ resources and advocacy in central Maryland in addressing the mission outlined above.

Is there a program for the youth who are LGBTQ or an ally?

Yes. The group meets every Wednesday starting at 7:00pm. Interested youth (23 years old and younger) can contact the Frederick Center Youth Services Coordinator Cindie Beach at cindie.beach@comast.net or by using any of the following methods:

TheFrederickcenter.org

TheFrederickCenter@gmail.com

Facebook.com/TheFrederickCenter

Facebook.com/TheFrederickCenterYouth

The Frederick Center, PO Box 3231, Frederick, MD 21705-3231

How can the people who are non-LGBTQ become an ally for those who are?

Speak out, write politicians, and vote in a way that supports legal and social equality for members of the LGBTQ community. Join the Frederick Center or donate money to support the Frederick Center programs. Contact the Frederick Center for a brochure. Asked to be listed, at no charge, in the Frederick business directory. Send contact information to the Frederick Center using one of the methods outlined. Volunteer for The Frederick Center

What made Frederick LGBTQ Community Center decide to welcome the Deaf community in?

The Frederick Center Board has always been aware that Frederick has a deaf LGBTQ community and considers these members of the LGBTQ community to be an important Frederick Center constituency. Because of the generous donation of time at this year’s Frederick Pride 2013 to interpret the event by Interp-Mezzo, many members of the deaf LGBTQ community attended, and many were able to take advantage of free HIV testing and counseling through the Frederick County Department of Health because one of the counselors was fluent in ASL. The Frederick Center Board is now seeking interested members of the deaf LGBTQ community who want to help form a Frederick Center Committee focused on the needs of the deaf LGBTQ community. Interested people should contact The Frederick Center using one of the methods noted previously.

(I would like to add something, the deaf community is welcome to contact me as well at jharbaugh.LGBTQ@gmail.com)

What do Frederick LGBTQ Community Center hope to do with the Deaf community? Is there a plan?

The Board wants the deaf LGBTQ to determine the needs and priorities. One possible effort would be promotion of free HIV testing by the Frederick County Department of Health, who can provide an interpreter. Making sure that Frederick Pride 2014 is responsive to the interests of the deaf LGBTQ community is also a goal. Workshops, social events, and other activities reflecting deaf LGBTQ community interests are all possibilities.

Now that the Supreme Court has finally allowed same sex marriage and federal benefits, what is next that the country needs to work on related to the LGBTQ issues?

We need to address the serious issue of the bullying of LGBTQ youth. We need to make marriage equality the law in all 50 states and also start work on gaining equal rights for transgender people.

For the teachers who want to raise awareness about LGBTQ issues in the classroom to avoid bullying in school, what should they do? Where to start?

Recognizing the bullying occurs for a variety of reasons other than bullied child’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, the solution starts with the local elected leaders, school board members, principals, staff members, and teachers, who all need to establish a proactive no-tolerance approach with both words and actions as it pertains to bullies and bullying. Contributing to bullying, ignoring bullying, and avoiding discussing or taking action to prevent bullying are not appropriate responses. On this, The Frederick Center is joining the Mental Health Association, Frederick Community College, Frederick County Public Schools and other organizations to plan a conference on the broader issue of bullying and strategies that can be used to minimize and eliminate this from occurring.

Any advice or wisdom for anyone? Anything you want to share?

The Frederick Center fills a gap for the central Maryland LGBTQ community, which has issues and needs that mirror but are distinct from those of Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD. The Frederick Center just finished a Community Needs Assessment and will continue moving towards addressing the issues and activities surfaced by that research. In parallel, all LGBTQ community members are encouraged to get added to the Frederick Center e-mail list, join Frederick Center as a member, help out as a volunteer, take advantage of the Youth Services and Adult Services activities, and participate in activities such as Pride. With this support comes the ability to expand services to our community, such as to members of the deaf LGBTQ community.

 *Note: Both of the Frederick LGBTQ Community and the Deaf community can contact me at jharbaugh.LGBTQ@gmail.com so I can pass on needs and wants to the Board of the Frederick LGBTQ Community Center.

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Jennifer Harbaugh writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

Feeling at home right here in Frederick

by Jennifer Harbaugh. 0 Comments

With the announcement of Carol Hirsch, a Deaf Frederick resident, starting her campaign to run for Mayor, history is in the making. I started to realize the importance of having Deaf residents in a city like Frederick. For example, Frederick is one of the few cities in the country, and possibly the entire world, that has made strides to truly understand the severity and urgency to accommodate their Deaf residents. We've been able to form our own community here and have set up events that are not only for hearing residents, but events that benefit the Deaf community as well.

I doubt having a Deaf resident running for the position of Mayor would have happened 10 or 15 years ago because the numbers of the Deaf people at that time was much smaller than they are now. The city did not get much exposure to the Deaf community until now. It is important to recognize that there is a reason why Deaf people move to Frederick; besides sending their kids to Maryland School for the Deaf or have a job there.

Frederick Community College has several Deaf Educators who teach American Sign Language classes. Many employees who work in retail are taking courses in order to talk to the Deaf customers in the stores, restaurants, bars, and et al.

Also, Frederick has one of the best interpreting services in the state, and in fact one would be hard pressed to find better services in the country.

Downtown Frederick has events from Deaf Night Out at Canal Bar or Jekyll and Hyde every month for Deaf residents.

Frederick Memorial Hospital has interpreters who are on call 24/7 for any Deaf patient who comes in.

And there are so many more...which I encourage people to post.

I grew up attending Maryland School for the Deaf for 16 years and graduated 8 years ago. I moved around several times for purposes of achieving my higher education goals and I wanted to be far away as possible from my parents, but I never felt at home at any place in any city...until now.

I look forward to growing old along with the city of Frederick. I hope you are, too.

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Jennifer Harbaugh writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

Having a Deaf Employee Won’t Hurt Your Business

by Jennifer Harbaugh. 0 Comments

I have to admit that even if I want to help Frederick improve its deaf-friendly status for the deaf community, I am in love with the fact of how deaf-friendly most of the employees are when I walk into a restaurant or shop. It helps when many deaf customers dine or shop there frequently, and the employees know what to expect.

However, I have noticed a huge struggle for the deaf community, including myself, in finding a job in Frederick. Maryland School for the Deaf can only employ so many deaf employees, and the school is closed during the summer. In addition, the deaf community is growing annually in Frederick. Many of us need a temporary or full-time job to support ourselves and our families.

Yes, I am aware that there are some deaf employees in positions around the city. However, I am looking at the bigger picture.

How can deaf residents of Frederick get hired when they have to compete with their hearing peers? One has an advantage over the other, and we in the deaf community are aware of which one has the advantage.

I know there is an "Equal Opportunity Employer" (EOE) statement that almost every business displays on its applications and in its buildings when hiring. However, this doesn't stop owners or employers from hiring the people they think are better qualified, and possibly "less trouble," which often are hearing people.

I don't think that anyone realizes that many deaf residents in Frederick and outside of the city have equal or better abilities and qualifications than many hearing people.

We can read and write.

Many of us have a Bachelors degree, are working toward one, or hold post-graduate degrees or are working toward one.

Even if some of us can't speak, we can communicate in other ways. We won't drive the customers away. Honest.

This note is to all employers of businesses in Frederick:

We want to be able to send in an application that says we are deaf without being afraid of losing our chance of getting the job.

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Jennifer Harbaugh writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com on a volunteer basis.

Keeping the deaf community safe during tragic events

by Jennifer Harbaugh. 0 Comments

Sandy Hook. Boston Marathon. Oklahoma.    One thing these events have in common is lives were lost in the most tragic way.    Life is unpredictable. Any one of us can go any second. While we are living, though, we have to figure out how can we keep ourselves safe or at least be aware of what's happening around us.   Once I heard about the Boston Marathon bombings, I kept thinking about how the Deaf people who went to the Marathon got out safely? I can't imagine standing alone in the chaos, people running and screaming, and having no idea what is happening or what I should do. I'm hoping the "we depend on the kindness of strangers" rings true here. It made me think about the disadvantage we are at.  For example, the hearing world has radio, loudspeakers, sirens, and people's chattering.    For us, the Deaf community, we have to depend on technology that is designed for us to help us get home safe. However, technology is not 100 percent reliable. For example, a few months ago, Downtown Frederick had a robbery incident, and I was at work when I found out what happened since the school I worked at was put on a lockdown. I wondered what if I didn't work that day and I was in my apartment and getting ready to leave and walk to Downtown, and I didn't look at my iPhone. What would have happened? 

 

Also, with many Deaf employees and Deaf students ranging from 13 to 21 years old walking around downtown during the lovely weather these days, how can we reinforce a safety system for the Deaf, as well as hearing residents? 

 

We already have one system set up in place, and that is "Alert Frederick County" text alerts, which I will explain more in detail later. 

  However, we need more accessible options besides "depending on the kindness of strangers."    This is an open invitation for everyone to throw in ideas and encourage the City of Frederick to consider these options and establish them in order to keep everyone safe.

If you are a Frederick resident or an employee working in Frederick, have you signed up for the "Alert Frederick County" page where you'll get texts or emails for everything from weather warnings to police happenings in the city? 

 

If not, the link is: https://ww2.everbridge.net/citizen/EverbridgeGateway.action?body=home&gis_alias_id=1080761

Please stay safe as the summer is coming!

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Jennnifer Harbaugh writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

Help make Frederick a deaf-friendly city

by Jennifer Harbaugh. 0 Comments

If you live in Frederick, and have not met a deaf person yet, you will. The numbers of deaf residents is increasing every year for one reason: Maryland School for the Deaf. People are moving to Frederick because they either work there or send their children there, or both.

Based on my experiences as a deaf resident of Frederick, I am concerned about this beautiful, historical city and whether or not Frederick is truly deaf friendly. Because I have personally encountered difficulties and issues as a deaf Frederick resident, and many other deaf people have probably encountered similar problems, it is paramount for Frederick to focus on becoming more deaf friendly.

Why is this an issue at all? Because Frederick’s deaf residents pay taxes just as hearing residents do, and they are building lives in a city where they want to live. The city should support them in every way, from accessibility issues to workforce training and reasonable accommodations that are actually quite simple. If a person can do a job well, deaf or hearing, they should be accorded the respect they deserve, and that is beginning to happen in more cities all over the country on a daily basis.

This online column will focus on how Frederick can evolve into a city that provides for the needs of all residents, deaf or hearing. It is time for Frederick to become a deaf-friendly city.

I will share my experiences as well as those of other deaf Frederick residents in hopes that everyone will gain insights into what deaf residents deal with daily in a city, and largely, society that is geared toward hearing residents.

Consider this until my next column.

How do we start making Frederick a deaf-friendly city?

1. Acknowledge that Frederick has deaf residents.

2. Accept that you can co-exist with us. Deaf people are not asking for special treatment, and they are not trying to take over. Deaf residents are simply asking for acknowledgement and respect from the hearing population.

3. Learn American Sign Language, not only because it helps you communicate with us but also because it is a beautiful language.

4. Make a friend with a deaf person. Personally knowing a deaf person will open your eyes and expand your world. You may just formulate a different view of life and how to live it richly, joyfully, whether you are hearing or deaf.

Until next time...

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Jennifer Harbaugh writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.