Treva Flores | Staff Writer
Sept. 30, 2014
Immediately upon arriving at Hunter Hobby Park, a loud burst of music could be heard as children and adults participated in this special Sept. 21 event. Over the noise, people gestured wildly, but people still couldn’t hear each other. It was the Deaf Week kick-off event.
Many people were using sign language, finger pointing, and speech to communicate with each other so it was almost impossible to tell apart the deaf people from those who could hear.
During the festivities there was a steam engine train full of children, a Riverside Police helicopter where people could take pictures and a dunk tank where for $1 each you could buy tickets to dunk city council members. Parents stood off in the distance watching their sons and daughters jump in the bounce houses, rock climb and splash on the water slide.
There was a tone of unity as family and friends celebrated deaf culture, one of the main reasons for this event.
Joselvis Bautista and Paul Putnam, two deaf gentlemen who started their own blanket business called Happy Pet’s Warm Pads.
“Hearing in deaf limits [me],” Bautista said using sign language. “I enjoy learning from deaf people who run their own business. We help each other in our businesses.”
For Bautista one of his biggest struggles was coming up with a business in a hearing world.
“I watch TV commercials and try to get ideas from them as well as understand them to overcome my struggles,” Bautista said.
“We are showing the world that the deaf can do anything the hearing can do,” signed Putnam. “We encourage them to sign and communicate.”
Putnam was born deaf and signing helped Putnam when he was attending a traditional school. He stresses that we’re all equal in communication and how important it is that the deaf and hearing communicate together.
The kickoff event was held by The Model Deaf Community, a task force appointed by the mayor and city council to make Riverside a model community for the deaf.
“We’re like the middleman and help facilitate change,” said Chairman Ian Barraza.
Former mayor, Ron Loveridge established the MDC in 1999 with the purpose of gathering information from the deaf and hearing communities. Information from that study, showing a need for change, was passed on to Mayor Rusty Bailey.
“As long as there are need for improvements, we’re there to help,” Barrazza said. “Our main goal right now is to become more visible so people know there’s a city committee available to the deaf community. We need input.”
Barraza hopes to organize future events similar to the Deaf Week kick-off with activities that everyone loves so more people will come out and communicate.
“The biggest barrier is communication,” said Phil Carmona, vice chairman of MDC. “We would like to encourage the community to learn sign language and break the barrier.”
The translators were notified that they had two minutes to prepare for an announcement. The translators then surrounded the booths and park area as they kept their hands and ears open for interpretation. As Barraza began his announcements, the translators would follow along so that the single message could be communicated to the hundreds of people attending the event. It was a demonstration that showed how easy it would be to exchange messages between the hearing and non-hearing worlds.
These translations underscored what the entire event was all about.
“Deaf people can do anything hearing people can do, except hear,” said Carmona, referencing Irving King Jordon, the first deaf president of Gallaudet University.