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Deaf Awareness Week | Bringing together two cultures through beautiful language

Interpreters are needed and those wanting to become one, can do so through McLennan Community College

WACO, Texas — International Week of the Deaf is celebrated every year during the last week of September and brings awareness to the accomplishments of deaf people. It's a chance for those not inside the deaf culture to become immersed with those they might see as different.

Gayle VanTrease, a deaf instructor at McLennan Community College in Waco, said they do a variety of events to help assist those that can hear in how they can work better with those who can't.

"We partner with the deaf and hard of hearing to do different events to learn about different events on how to assist that population, mostly hearing people that can hear, how they will know how to work with deaf individuals," VanTrease said.

VanTrease said the deaf community knows that most hearing people don't know American Sign Language and they do tend to be patient but those that are willing to learn, it excited them immensely.

"We like to see those growing collaborations when more and more people learn and they get out and social," VanTrease said, and added how impressed she has been with Waco in the four years since she moved here. "Sometimes, I'll go out to the mall or to a restaurant or even to a store sometimes and when I go in there and there's someone who knows sign, then I am super excited to sit there and chat with them."

McLennan Community College has an interpreter training program, one of only 13 colleges in Teas that offers such a course. The program is designed to prepare students for certification in the field. VanTrease said interpreters are in high demand and sorely needed.

"We are always needing interpreters. They need them in education they need them in legal they need them in medical, in Waco we only have two interpreting agencies in town and MCC provides interpreters and we want them to graduate and go on to take the test and be certified in the state of Texas that way we can place them anywhere they want to work, basically," VanTrease told 6 News through an interpreter.

VanTrease said she wants everyone to know that not all levels of hearing loss are the same and is big misnomer when it comes to fully understanding the deaf community.

"Not all deaf people are the same and there are a variety of levels of hearing loss," she said. "Some were born deaf, some lost their hearing and became hard of hearing."

Above all else, VanTrease said the collaboration between the hearing world and those that are deaf is essential.

"That collaboration between the deaf world and the hearing world only leads to a better life for everybody, it's how we succeed." VanTrease said, "If we isolated ourselves, there's been a lot of history in terms of ASL and should we speak or should we sign that caused fragmented relations in our community."

VanTrease said the deaf community just can't have fragmentation and said working together is the best outcome.

If you are interested in learning more and want to take part in events or sign up for the MCC Interpreter Program, you can do so.

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