Deaf Way II
November 12, 2002
Deaf Way II
“Deaf Way II was a remarkable phenomenon. It was a week-long
educational conference and arts festival held at the Washington Convention
Center and attended by 10,000 Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons from more
than 100 countries,” says Gina A. Oliva, a professor in the Department of
Physical Education and Recreation at Gallaudet University in Washington,
D.C. (Oliva, 2002).
The first Deaf Way plans began with Carol Erting, a cultural
anthropologist and a Gallaudet University professor, in 1987. During the
1980s, she wrote, "I met countless Deaf people who—often against
great odds—had created political, educational, social and artistic
programs to respond to the needs of their own communities. I also met
linguists, psychologists, sociologists, and other scholars who were working
with Deaf people to learn more about their languages and ways of life. My
wish was that Deaf students and colleagues at Gallaudet could all share
these enlightening international experiences (Gallaudet History, 2002)
." From that, ideas were exchanged and the planning began. The first
Deaf Way International Conference and Festival took place at Gallaudet
University in Washington, D.C. the week of July 9-14, 1989(Gallaudet
Just months before, 1,000-plus undergraduates led a protest, Deaf
President Now, that resulted in the appointment of I. King Jordan as the
university's first Deaf president. Jordan was elected the first deaf
president of Gallaudet University. Gallaudet University, the only university
in the world with programs and services specifically designed to meet the
needs of Deaf and hard of hearing students, is the host of Deaf Way II (Gallaudet
The name “Deaf Way” is both an American and English way to sign
‘deaf way of Life’. In the beginning, planning was arranged for 500
guests, soon grew to over 5,000. Deaf Way 1989 was an amazing event,
bringing people together from many different locations, reinforcing how
important sign language is in the lives of the Deaf people. Their pride
began to spread as they were acknowledged for their individuality and
amazing talents, rather than a disability. They were brought together in
song, dance, storytelling, and performance for all members of the family.
They learned the beauty of sign, the possibilities in technology, and the
role of accessibility . Once the wonderful event of Deaf Way took place, the
importance of connecting with their deaf community around the world, was
brought to everyone’s attention (Gallaudet History, 2002).
Now over a decade later, Deaf Way II took place July 13-15, 2002. It was
one of largest events in the history of Gallaudet University. The attendance
almost doubled the last conference, nine thousand five hundred fifty two had
registered. Of that number, forty-two point twenty-four percent were Deaf,
twenty point zero three percent were hearing, two point ninety-two percent
were hard of hearing, and zero point sixty-two late deafened. One hundred
twenty countries were represented, from Canada to Zimbabwe. There were even
several Deaf blind people that attended (Gallaudet Statistics, 2002). Sergei
Chachelev, a main Cirque du Soleil performer, presented a phenomenal
exhibition with a collection of 400 deaf artists and performers. "Where
is my deaf culture at Cirque? I need that balance in my life. . . Both my
parents were deaf; I grew up signing. The hearing world is where I struggle.
The hearing world is where I feel separate,” said Chachelev (Washington,
2002). There were many other talented stars that appeared at the event.
Deaf organizations from around the world endorsed the festival. The National
Association of the Deaf (NAD) and The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), a
non-profit organization that works for human rights for deaf people
everywhere (Gallaudet Endorsers, 2002).
Will there be another Deaf Way
Conference and Festival? That is questionable but, with the response and
interest of both the hearing and the Deaf world, this seems like an
experience that should continue to touch people. “Deaf Way II is a
testament to the invincibility and talents of an international community
that too often lacks visibility in the world of the hearing. It was a
testament to the perseverance of a people who have managed to flourish
amidst historical and contemporary misunderstanding,” beautifully said by
Oliva (Oliva, 2002).
Gallaudet University. (2002) Deaf Way II 2002
Oliva, Gina A. (2002). Deaf Way II: signs of the future: the international
conference and festival in Washington was a celebration of the talents and
experiences of deaf people. Insight on the News, August 2002 pp. 40-41.
Washington, Teresa Wiltz. (2002). An Artful Alternative To the Heard
Mentality; At Gallaudet’s Deaf Way II, Fun for The Whole Family. The
Washington Post, July 2002 pp. 15-20.
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