DeafNation breaks barriers across the world

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Joel Barish
Viewpoints | Jonathan Ramirez
By Jonathan Ramirez

Similar to Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, Joel Barish is a renowned world traveler, but what sets him apart is his mission is to understand international deaf culture.

Joel Barish shares the experiences of deaf people from remote corners of the world and exploring their culture through food and diverse lifestyles.

No Barriers with Joel Barish evaporates and transcends the walls of communication for Deaf people through the use of sign language and the hundreds of variations of it from all over the world and films their stories for the world to connect with. 

The presentation is fueled on his passion to educate and expand the minds of students to the importance of the different unique stories that come from deaf individuals from unrepresented parts of the planet.

Barish demonstrates how sign varies from country to country and culture by culture. 

“It was a good experience for me. Everyone always limits themselves when it comes to languages. Now he’s broadening our horizons to ASL because it’s not just ASL. There’s no such thing as a universal sign. There’s many variances when it comes to sign and what falls behind it is the oppression and limitation given to them. This is just an eye opener as to what more there can be,” RCC student Alexis Espinosa said.

Barish is the CEO of the DeafNation website which hosts over 1,000 videos on all the experiences that he has had with deaf individuals all over the world that also includes MMA fighters, a West Wing Receptionist, female bodybuilder, and many more.

“I’m just looking for unique stories. So I’ll go through friends of a friend of a friend of a friend. It’s word of mouth really. I have to search really hard to find (Deaf) people from other countries. To bring stories along with context,” Barish said.

When asked about one of the most challenging individuals to find, Barish showed his relentless determination in his mission to share the story of a Deaf individual in every country that he visits. 

“When you talk about Hmong, it’s a tribe and people told me that there were no deaf people, but I was able to find someone. It was hard. We filmed them sharing their story instead of just going someplace and looking for food and sharing it in that country. I am looking for those people and I take their story and I share it,” Barish said. 

Not only would Barish share their story, but he will take the time to understand and honor their own sign language. Sign language changes depending on the location and culture that embodies it. 

The presentation was set up by the Student Association for Interpreter Development in the Digital Library Auditorium. The evening was interpreted by Brianna Hughes and Diana McDougall who teaches American Sign Language. 

“I thought the event was very informative. I’ve known Joel for about maybe a year now. He teaches us about these cultures and how fortunate we are as individuals and generally I think the experience is very educational to what we have and there’s more out there that we can achieve,” Christopher Morton, a Deaf interpreter and a 2019 speaker of DeafNation said.

He explains that he is not there to mediate or get in between the cultures or religions of others, but to share his experiences with them and share their experience with the entire world. 


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