Mid-Atlantic Deaf and Hard of Hearing Festival
Deaf Outreach, Inc
On Saturday, June 3, 2017, I decided to visit the Mid-Atlantic Deaf and Hard of Hearing Festival at the Howard County Fairground hosted by the Maryland Deaf Senior Citizens (MDSC). For me, this trip was a step into the unknown. True, I had never attended that particular festival before, but that wasn’t what challenged me. You see, I am a hearing person learning to sign. I’ve taken classes Monday nights at Wyoming United Methodist Church (Wyoming, Delaware) for about three or four years now so I know many signs, but my communication skills are still probably at a preschool level. And this trip I was traveling alone, without anyone to interpret for me. Mind you, other folks from Deaf Outreach were planning to go later that day. But I needed to go shopping later in the day and I figured it would be good for me to go alone so that I could get my own impressions of what a Deaf Festival was like.
Around 9:30 AM, I arrived at the Festival. I followed my trusty little TomTom and the signs along the road to the lower parking lot. There were a handful of cars already in the lot but no people were in sight. By the time I got out of the car though, a golf cart came by and a volunteer gave me a ride to the area where the exhibits were housed. He pointed out the upper parking lot that would have been closer to the exhibit hall (Sorry, I followed the wrong signs I guess!). Umm, it took him less than a minute to figure out I was hearing.
The building with the exhibits was quite large. Tables lined both sides and more tables were in the middle. Some of the side tables were empty but had signs indicating that food would be set up there later. Others were already filled with various exhibits and lots and lots of people were gathered around them. Signs in the middle sections advertised the dinner and Dingo events for later that evening. I could see a black divider behind the middle section that separated the front of the room from the back. Volunteers steered me into the building and let me know I was welcome.
Exhibits varied widely. Some had crafts created by Deaf groups. Some had informational displays. Some had clothing for sale. Others had equipment useful for Deaf and Hard of Hearing populations. Since I have a family member who is hard of hearing, I was particularly interested in the captioned phones and flashing or vibrating alarms. Unfortunately most of the equipment and informational booths seemed to be directed primarily toward Maryland residents rather than folks from Delaware, but it was still interesting and educational. I tried signing at each table to the best of my ability. I figured I was doing great if I survived on sign alone for two or more minutes. Sometimes I managed; sometimes not!
After over an hour checking out the exhibits, I was ready for some food. I remember ordering (yes, in sign) a savory crepe that was scrumptious. I took my meal and sat down on some chairs in front of the stage on the other side of the black divider I had seen when I entered the building. The presenter at that time was signing fairytales she had modified to teach Deaf cultural values. Because everything was in sign, anyone who wanted to be at the presentation just had to look at the stage. There were no walls between the stage and the crowded exhibit tables. This wouldn’t have been possible for hearing populations but it obviously worked well here. Better yet, I understood just about everything the presenter signed including the different endings. I know that says a lot about my receptive signing skill level but I was pleased just the same.
Finally it was time for me to head back to Delaware. I was impressed with the Festival. Lots and lots of volunteers and much hard work had gone into making it happen. It was a challenge to go by myself with my limited communication skills, but everyone was patient and helpful. In the end I was glad that I went.