Deaf Awareness Week Activities
Deaf and hard-of-hearing people come from a rich heritage of culture, history, language, and diversity. The World Federation of the Deaf began celebrating Deaf Awareness Week in Rome, Italy in 1958 as a way to share these aspects of the Deaf community. Deaf communities began adopting the last week of September (Monday - Sunday) as a way draw the community together, to remember, and to celebrate Deaf heritage. The Church, in particular Deaf ministries, has always been an extension of the Deaf community and there is no better time than this to observe Deaf Awareness Week. The following lists highlight advocacy, worship, and events that churches can engage in during Deaf Awareness Week.
There are a number of ways that churches and ministries can be advocates. First, advocate for accessibility and inclusion within your congregation. Second, learn about Deaf advocacy efforts within your community or your state by connecting with organizations and state agencies. This type of social justice runs deep in United Methodism. Deaf, Inc., Hearing Loss Association of America, the World Federation of the Deaf, and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) offers a list of resources worth reviewing and learning about issues related to the Deaf community. Third, include a blurb under announcements in your church bulletin or have a bulletin insert that highlights an issue, like emergency preparedness or how to file (business) complaints due to audism or discrimination. Fourth, begin to subscribe to some blogs or Deaf-related news sources to keep a pulse of what's happening in your area. Fifth, print some Deaf Awareness brochures and make them available in your narthex.
And, finally, complete a communication access audit, such as that on page 12 of Breaking the Sound Barrier in Your Church and become familiar with concerns facing Deaf and hard-of-hearing people in worship places.
Worship is often where the relationship with Deaf, hard-of-hearing, late-deafened, and Deafblind persons and their families begin. Making a concerted effort to take worship to the next level by being more Deaf-friendly is a way to observe Deaf Awareness Week and other Sundays thereafter.
Here is a Deaf-friendly Worship Guide. A few easy ways to make worship more Deaf-friendly include: expanding the bulletin to include music, Scripture, and prayers; use multimedia that includes music and litanies (those signing can't hold a hymnal); bulletin inserts; teaching some signs from the UMC ASL Glossary; and offer captioning. Encouraging Deaf and hard-of-hearing people to lead worship on the final day (Sunday) of Deaf Awareness Week, as this is great for awareness; moreover, this shows how your church should include Deaf leaders as an on-going effort to include them as a part of church leadership.
Churches can host one or more events during Deaf Awareness Week. Some ideas include:
- Introduction to sign language class
- A group study about audism and hearing privilege
- Deaf Awareness Sunday
- An after-church luncheon that includes a presentation about Deaf history, prominent Deaf people, and Deaf culture
- Print Deaf community events and post them on the church's bulletin board.