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