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National Leadership Training Conference  (NLTC) 
reported by Chris Haulmark

Image:  left to right:  Chris, Cameron, Jen & Adriana at the Hotel Alburquerque at Old Town.  Smiling at camera, holding up their registration badges.  Conference attendees sitting/standing around tables in the background.   9.21.2023

September 24, 2023

I woke up feeling pleasantly surprised, fully energized as if I had enjoyed a night of uninterrupted slumber. Glancing at my watch, I noticed it was 5:30 am in the mountain time zone. With ample time on my hands, I meticulously packed my belongings into a compact suitcase and a small bag while patiently waiting for the rest of my group to awaken and prepare for the day. 

At 8 a.m., we left for our journey, in the crisp morning air, surrounded by the enchanting beauty of the southwestern landscape, adorned with arid desert plains and rugged rocky canyons. We were eager to visit the New Mexico School for the Deaf and take a group photo next to its sign when we arrived at Santa Fe.

Driving north, we left New Mexico behind and ventured into the picturesque corner of Colorado. Towering mountain ranges framed the horizon, their majestic peaks scaled by vibrant evergreens and adorned with colorful autumn foliage. The air carried a refreshing chill as we wound our way through winding mountain roads, each turn revealing breathtaking vistas of valleys awash in shades of gold and amber. Our spirits soared amidst the awe-inspiring beauty that surrounded us, painting a vivid tableau of nature's splendor.

In Kansas, rows upon rows of fertile farmland greeted us as we drove eastward through the sweeping plains, leaving behind the mountainous terrain of Colorado. Green fields as far as the eye could see, covered with golden wheat and towering cornstalks dotted with sorghums, painting the undulating terrain in vivid, quilted patterns.

As the sun traversed its arc across the sky, casting a warm glow upon the landscape, we could feel the ebbing day gently giving way to the approaching evening. The vivid hues of the sunset painted a brilliant canvas in my rearview and side mirrors, where streaks of orange, pink, and purple painted the western sky, casting a dreamlike ambiance. The sinking sun transformed the Kansas plains into a magical panorama, bathing the land in warm, golden light as if bidding us farewell until tomorrow. With each passing mile, the reflections in the mirrors grew more intense, capturing nature's allure in a window of color, as the sunset continued to infuse the land with its radiance. It was a sensory spectacle, a reminder of the timeless wonder and majesty of nature, etched in our memories as we journeyed deeper into the enchanting beauty of the Kansas plains.

Guided by the fading twilight, we continued our journey towards Olathe. The sky gradually dimmed as darkness settled upon the horizon, revealing a star-studded canvas above us. The distant twinkling lights of small towns and the passing vehicles became our companions as the night deepened.

Hours passed, and the clock neared 11 pm as we finally reached our destination. The illumination of streetlights guided us through the quiet streets of Olathe, signaling the end of our long and arduous road trip. Fatigue mingled with triumph as we stepped out of our vehicles and bid adieu to our fellow colleagues, grateful for the shared experiences and camaraderie that had kept us united throughout the weekend.

As I retired to rest that night, the vivid memories of the changing landscape and the enriching experiences of the NLTC conference lingered in my mind, evoking a sense of reflection and introspection. The road trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, had not only been a physical journey through diverse landscapes but also a journey of personal growth and connection. The conversations with my colleagues, the thought-provoking discussions, and the exchange of insights all contributed to a deeper understanding of myself and my role in serving the Deaf community. The NLTC conference itself offered a wealth of knowledge and inspiration, reminding me of the importance of continuous learning and the power of collective action. As I lay in bed, the images of vibrant sunsets, engaging workshops, and meaningful connections replayed in my thoughts, reinforcing my commitment to advocate for the rights and well-being of the Deaf community. These memories, imprinted in my mind like an indelible mark, would guide my future endeavors and fuel my passion for creating positive change.

September 22, 2023

I was the first one to wake up and get ready for the day, which gave me some extra time to work on yesterday's blog entry. Despite the peculiar bump in the middle of my bed, my body had already adapted to it, allowing me to feel rested and ready for the day ahead. This unexpected adjustment served as a reminder of our adaptability in the face of challenges, echoing our resilience as advocates for the Deaf community.

Our choice to stay in the Airbnb property, with separate bedrooms for each of us, proved to be a fortuitous decision. It not only allowed for restful privacy but also afforded us the invaluable opportunity to bond and deepen our connections. Within that cozy sanctuary, we gathered, sharing stories, dreams, and visions for a brighter future for our beloved Deaf community. The comfortable surroundings of the property embraced us with its New Mexico-themed decor, vibrant artwork adorning the walls, and an ample living space that fostered a sense of warmth and togetherness. The living room, dining room, and kitchen were all spacious, but we found ourselves primarily congregating in the bright and inviting kitchen.

After preparing ourselves for the day's activities, we set off on our journey to the hotel, eagerly anticipating the workshop sessions, as well as the opportunity to connect with both old and new friends who were going to be there.

The first workshop session of the day for me was Linsay Darnell Jr.’s Creating a Leadership Pipeline.


After being introduced by Vyron Kinson, Linsay Darnell Jr. delves into the importance of establishing a strong leadership pipeline. With his extensive experience as an alumni of Nebraska School for the Deaf, a consultant for Junior NAD, and an independent consulting business owner, Linsay is actively involved in the development of leaders. With a keen focus on addressing the existing leadership crisis in various sectors, Linsay highlights the need to prepare for the future by cultivating a community of capable leaders who can navigate the challenges ahead.

The Leadership Crisis:

He highlights the prevailing leadership crisis across various sectors, including businesses, the private sector, and even churches. Linsay attributes this crisis to the elimination of middle management roles in the 1980s and 1990s, resulting in a lack of experienced managers who could guide the current generation.

Within the Deaf community, Linsay draws a parallel by emphasizing the shortage of seasoned leaders from the Desert Storm era. These individuals possess invaluable knowledge and wisdom that could greatly benefit younger generations. Recognizing this need, Linsay underscores the urgent requirement to establish a strong leadership pipeline specifically tailored for the Deaf community.

By actively recruiting and engaging with aspiring Deaf leaders, Linsay encourages the nurturing and development of their leadership skills. He cites the example of recruiting Deaf leadership experts to inspire and guide aspiring leaders. Linsay sees this mentorship and support as imperative for cultivating capable leaders within the Deaf community.

Linsay recognizes the significance of continuous learning and improvement in leadership development. He believes that even experienced leaders should seek feedback and strive to enhance their skills and knowledge. Embracing a growth mindset and committing to lifelong learning ensure that leaders can adapt and excel in their roles.

Linsay's focus lies on developing leaders within the Deaf community, using examples like the military to demonstrate the importance of establishing a strong leadership pipeline. By actively recruiting, engaging, and supporting aspiring Deaf leaders, Linsay envisions a brighter future where effective leaders thrive and the challenges faced by the Deaf community are successfully addressed.

Developing a Leadership Pipeline:

Linsay delves into the strategies and approaches necessary for creating an effective leadership pipeline. He highlights the brain's ability to acquire habits and presents the concept of the Tetris Effect to demonstrate how emotional intelligence plays a significant role. By reshaping negative patterns within Deaf clubs and improving emotional intelligence, individuals can retrain their brains to identify strengths and opportunities for growth.

One crucial aspect of building a leadership pipeline is connecting Deaf leadership experts with aspiring Deaf leaders. Linsay stresses the importance of active recruitment, engaging with these individuals on a one-on-one basis, and providing the necessary support to cultivate their leadership skills. He shares a personal experience from the Omaha community, where effective recruitment and encouragement resulted in the emergence of a thriving Deaf leader, demonstrating the immense impact of personalized engagement. Together, they paved the way for success with the motto "Today Nebraska, Tomorrow the World."

Linsay also highlights the distinction between good and bad leaders. While bad leaders prioritize personal success at the expense of others, good leaders uplift and reward collective achievements. Linsay notes the unfortunate tendency to celebrate the accomplishments of bad leaders, while the empowering qualities of good leaders often go underappreciated.

To develop effective leaders, Linsay offers a range of practical tips. He emphasizes the significance of teaching the organization's purpose to community members, enabling them to understand the bigger picture. Leading by example, practicing a collaborative communication style, actively involving others in decision-making processes, fostering continuous engagement, and providing support all contribute to effective leadership development.

Lifelong Learning and Continuous Improvement:

Linsay recognizes the paramount significance of continuous learning and improvement in the development of leadership skills. He emphasizes that even experienced leaders should actively seek feedback and strive to enhance their abilities and knowledge. Linsay firmly believes that by adopting a growth mindset and demonstrating a commitment to lifelong learning, leaders can consistently adapt and excel in their respective roles.

To foster the growth of aspiring Deaf leaders, Linsay emphasizes the importance of actively recruiting and engaging with them. As an example, he shares his personal experience with late renowned leader Bernard Bragg. Linsay narrates how Bragg, a trailblazer in the Deaf community, once sat beside Linsay after a performance, seeking feedback and asking about Bragg’s progress. This incident exemplifies Bragg's continuous pursuit of progress and learning, serving as an inspiration for prospective leaders.

Linsay strongly advocates for mentorship and support from established leaders, as they provide invaluable guidance and inspiration to foster the development of capable leaders within the Deaf community. Recognizing the transformative impact of mentorship, Linsay perceives this support as crucial for cultivating leadership skills and empowering aspiring leaders within the Deaf community.


In conclusion, Linsay Darnell Jr. highlights the criticality of establishing a robust leadership pipeline to overcome future barriers. Through active recruitment, personalized engagement, and ongoing support, a community of uplifted and empowered individuals can be developed. Linsay encourages individuals to embrace the possibilities and work collaboratively towards building a brighter future where effective leaders thrive. By doing so, we can ensure that future generations are equipped to face the challenges that lie ahead.

After the workshop ended, we had a 30-minute break before the next one started, so I decided to make use of this time by mingling with some of the guests from this and next workshops. It was a valuable opportunity to interact and connect with others before the next workshop began.

Build a Dynamic Team by Laura Kim & Milmaglyn Morales

Milmaglyn Morales has extensive experience in various state and national organizations, as well as in school administration. Laura Kim, on the other hand, has worked closely with state associations within Region 4 of the National Association of the Deaf, focusing on education within Deaf communities. During this workshop, they collected feedback from the audience and defined "dynamic" as a combination of diverse backgrounds and experiences.

This workshop aimed to help participants understand the importance of leveraging different skills in order to build a strong and collaborative team. It addressed potential conflicts that may arise from these differences. The focus was on creating strong relationships through team-building activities, interpersonal dialogue, and joint projects.

This workshop began with ice breaker activities such as Truth & Lie, A Penny for your Thoughts, and Where the Summer Wind Blows. These activities allowed participants to interact and engage with one another.

Poor group dynamics often stem from various factors that can contribute to a negative working environment. One of the primary causes of negative team dynamics is weak leadership. When a team lacks a strong leader, the group can become directionless and focus on the wrong priorities, leading to infighting or lack of cooperation. Similarly, excessive deference to authority can hinder open communication and prevent team members from expressing their opinions, contributing to misunderstandings and a lack of collaboration.

Another cause of poor group dynamics is blocking. This behavior disrupts the flow of information in the group and can take on different forms, including being overly critical, being inappropriate or boastful, or withdrawing from the discussion entirely. Groupthink, the tendency to value consensus over reaching the right decision, is another factor that can contribute to poor team dynamics. When individuals fail to explore alternative solutions and are instead focused on agreement, it can hinder the team from reaching its full potential.

Lastly, freeriding can also contribute to negative group dynamics. When one or more team members do not contribute adequately, it puts undue responsibilities on the others, leading to resentment and a lack of motivation. This behavior can manifest as "social loafing," where individuals work hard independently but limit their contributions in group settings. By recognizing these behaviors and their impact on team dynamics, groups can work to promote openness, communication, accountability, and collaboration, leading to a stronger and more effective working environment.

In summary, poor group dynamics can arise from various factors such as weak leadership, excessive deference to authority, blocking, groupthink, and freeriding. Understanding these dynamics can help groups address underlying issues and foster a more positive and collaborative working environment. Effective communication, clear expectations, and mutual respect are key elements for building a strong team dynamic that can achieve its goals.

Improving team dynamics can be achieved by implementing the following strategies: 1) Familiarize yourself with your team members, understanding their strengths, weaknesses, and individual traits; 2) Address issues and conflicts promptly rather than letting them escalate, fostering an environment of open communication and problem-solving; 3) Clearly define roles and responsibilities within the team, ensuring that everyone knows their specific tasks and contributions; 4) Break down any barriers that hinder collaboration, such as hierarchical structures or lack of trust, by promoting inclusivity and fostering a sense of unity; 5) Prioritize effective communication, encouraging active listening, clarity, and respect amongst team members; 6) Lastly, pay attention to the team's dynamics, observing and addressing any signs of tension, alignment issues, or unproductive behaviors to nurture a positive and successful working environment.

In order to foster effective team dynamics, several strategies have been identified. One is to "Know Your Team", which involves taking the time to understand each member's unique qualities, strengths, and weaknesses. Another strategy is to "Tackle Problems Quickly", which emphasizes addressing conflicts and issues in a prompt and proactive manner to prevent them from escalating. A third approach is to "Define Roles and Responsibilities," which involves clearly outlining each member's specific tasks and contributions, promoting accountability and reducing confusion.

A fourth strategy is to "Break Down Barriers" that can hinder collaboration, such as hierarchical structures or a lack of trust. By promoting inclusivity and fostering a sense of unity within the team, members can work together more effectively. A fifth important strategy is to "Focus on Communication", prioritizing active listening, clarity, and respect amongst team members. Lastly, "Pay Attention" to the team's dynamics by observing and addressing any signs of tension, collaboration issues, or unproductive behaviors in order to create a cohesive and successful working environment.

To promote effective team dynamics, there are several important actions that should be taken. Firstly, it is crucial to "Know Your Team" by understanding the unique strengths and weaknesses of each member. This knowledge can help assign tasks appropriately and foster a supportive working environment. Secondly, teams should always strive to "Tackle Problems Quickly" by addressing conflicts in a timely manner. This proactive approach can prevent issues from escalating and damaging the overall team dynamics. Thirdly, it is vital to "Define Roles and Responsibilities" clearly, ensuring that every team member understands their specific tasks and contributions. This clarity helps to promote accountability and reduce confusion within the team.

In order to create a harmonious working environment, it is necessary to "Break Down Barriers" that may hinder collaboration. By encouraging open and inclusive communication, teams can overcome hierarchy, biases, and other barriers that may impede effective collaboration. Additionally, "Focus on Communication" is crucial for maintaining strong team dynamics. Active listening, clear expression, and respect for others' viewpoints all contribute to successful collaboration. Lastly, it is critical to "Pay Attention" to the team's dynamics, being observant for signs of tension, conflicts, or unproductive behaviors. By addressing these issues early on, teams can maintain a positive and productive working environment.

On the other hand, there are certain actions that should be avoided to maintain healthy team dynamics. It is important to "Avoid conflicts" by promoting open dialogue and addressing issues calmly. Jumping to conclusions should also be avoided, as it can lead to misunderstandings and hinder effective problem-solving. Furthermore, interrupting others' voices can disrupt the flow of communication and discourage team members from sharing their ideas. Bold and aggressive speaking or gesturing can create an intimidating atmosphere within the team, hindering effective collaboration. Using irrelevant or false statistics should be avoided, as it can undermine trust and credibility. Negative body language can convey an unfavorable message and contribute to a toxic work culture. Lastly, making sarcastic comments or remarks can create tension and damage relationships within the team.

After attending this workshop, I have gained valuable insights on how to enhance our KAD board through team building and collaborative skills. I am now equipped with a deeper understanding of the strategies that can help us improve our overall performance. The workshop has provided me with the necessary tools to foster a more cohesive and productive working environment within our team.

Through the workshop, I have learned the importance of effective communication, active listening, and mutual respect in building strong team dynamics. It has become clear to me that by actively engaging with my teammates and valuing their input, we can create a more collaborative atmosphere that encourages the sharing of diverse perspectives and ideas. I now understand that working together as a cohesive unit, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, is crucial in achieving our collective goals.

Moreover, the workshop has prompted me to reflect on my own behaviors and actions within the team. I have realized that actively addressing conflicts and problems in a timely manner can prevent them from escalating and negatively impacting our team dynamics. Moving forward, I aim to be more proactive in identifying barriers that hinder collaboration and finding ways to break them down. By being attentive to the needs and concerns of my fellow team members, I can contribute to a more positive and inclusive working environment.

Overall, attending this workshop has provided me with the knowledge and skills necessary to improve our KAD board. It has instilled in me a sense of responsibility and a commitment to nurturing positive team dynamics. I am excited to apply these newfound insights and strategies to our future endeavors, with the ultimate goal of achieving greater success as a team.

During our lunch break, I eagerly anticipated the reunion with my Kansas group after attending those two compelling workshops. I was keen to discover the knowledge they had gained from the other sessions, hoping to witness the same transformative effect that the NLTC conference had on me. As we sat down to eat, our conversation tangibly brimming with excitement, there was an intriguing presentation taking place on the stage. It delved into the captivating subject of "Values in the Narratives of Deaf BIPOC Youth and their Identities."

During the fascinating luncheon, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to attend Jacob Salem's workshop, which was to be my next destination. As I made my way towards the workshop, I fortuitously crossed paths with Jacob himself. We engaged in an invigorating conversation, where I shared my background and aspirations. To my delight, I discovered that we shared a common motivation: the desire to collaborate with Deaf individuals from all states in America, ensuring their preparedness to engage with their respective state legislatures. This discovery further fueled my enthusiasm and sense of purpose as I eagerly anticipated the start of Jacob's workshop.

Befriending Legislators by Jacob Salem

As the workshop began, I eagerly sat among the audience, my anticipation building. Michelle Cline introduced Jacob Salem. Instantly, Jacob dove into a role-playing exercise, assuming the role of a legislator, while the audience became his voters who were concerned about making programs more accessible in our voting district.

Jacob started off by sharing a story about the state legislature's management of the budget. He then turned to the audience, asking us for ideas on how to increase the mental health budget. I found this interactive approach engaging as it encouraged participation and collective problem-solving.

One of the focal points of Jacob's presentation was the importance of establishing friendly relationships with legislators. He explained that creating connections with them would yield better results when seeking support from the legislature. Jacob reinforced his point by showing us two videos on the projector screen that provided an overview of how a bill becomes law in Massachusetts and the intricacies of a legislative hearing. This visual aid enhanced the audience’s understanding of the legislative process.

Next, Jacob enlightened us about the key individuals we needed to engage with: legislators, legislature staff, and aides. He emphasized the significance of befriending these influential figures. He highlighted that legislators rely on their constituents to enhance their own standing and ego. Additionally, Jacob shed light on the crucial role of committee leaders and their aides, who hold substantial sway over the entire chamber. Understanding this hierarchy within the legislature was eye-opening.

Delving deeper into relationship-building, Jacob offered practical suggestions to connect with legislators. He proposed inviting them to various events such as Deaf community gatherings, Deaf days at the state capitol, and award ceremonies organized by the Deaf community to honor legislators. In addition, Jacob stressed the importance of organizing events where constituents could directly meet and interact with legislators. Financially supporting legislators' campaigns was also mentioned as a way to establish rapport, with initial contact made through phone calls or emails. Jacob's comprehensive guidance on cultivating relationships with legislators provided valuable insights.

As the workshop progressed, Jacob continued to share additional strategies for connecting with legislators. He encouraged attending legislative hearings and public meetings, providing input on pertinent issues. Hosting town hall meetings was another effective way of engaging with legislators and ensuring their presence in the community. Jacob also touched upon the potential for introductions through mutual acquaintances and highlighted the benefits of attending events where legislators and their teams were present. His suggestions offered diverse opportunities for forging meaningful connections.

Towards the end of the workshop, several volunteers, including myself, were invited to role-play as constituents and present three key priorities for the Deaf community to Jacob, who played the part of a legislator. Though initially comfortable, I embraced the opportunity to share my ideas within the given timeframe of three minutes. It felt incredibly fulfilling to lead by example and advocate for meaningful change.

Reflecting on the entire workshop, I couldn't help but be thoroughly impressed by Jacob's depth of knowledge, his vast experience, and his ability to effectively convey this information to us. The workshop was a remarkable source of knowledge and inspiration for everyone in attendance. As someone who had prior lobbying experience with legislators, I couldn't help but feel a surge of excitement at the workshop's potential to empower and educate others. Jacob's talent for sharing his expertise left an indelible mark on me.

As one of the experienced and skilled individuals in the audience, I felt a surge of excitement running through me. While I have been comfortably navigating this advocacy work for a while, I found it inspiring to know that Jacob would continue teaching this workshop to Deaf people across America. This meant that more Deaf individuals would have the opportunity to grow their skills, acquire valuable experience, and potentially surpass me in advocating for change with legislators. Instead of feeling threatened by this prospect, I was genuinely thrilled at the prospect of no longer being alone in this endeavor. Finally, I wouldn't have to shoulder this burden alone anymore. It was a chance for shared progress, collective determination, and the power of united voices to make a real impact.

Following the workshop, I had the opportunity to attend one of the three caucuses available, and I chose the one focused on legislative issues. It was a refreshing change of pace as we engaged in a group discussion, led by NAD board members and staff, to share and explore various creative ideas. The energy in the room was palpable as participants eagerly submitted their proposals, which were then projected onto a screen for all to see. I couldn't help but imagine these ideas being further discussed and decided upon by the council of representatives at the upcoming NAD conference in Chicago next year. It was exciting to think that our contributions could potentially shape future actions and initiatives.

After the caucus, I set out to meet up with my fellow Kansas group members to organize a dinner outing. Along with two of my newfound friends, we extended invitations to others who had joined our group throughout the weekend. Eventually, we settled on a sushi restaurant and made our way there in my rental vehicle, while the other friends opted for their own transportation. The atmosphere at dinner was lively and enjoyable as we savored our meals and engaged in heartfelt conversations. Time seemed to fly by, and as the evening drew to a close, we made our way back to our Airbnb rental, bidding farewell to those returning to their own accommodations. Exhausted from the day's interactions, I found solace in my bed, my social battery nearly depleted. Reflecting on the day's events, I couldn't help but feel grateful for the connections made and the experiences shared.


September 21, 2023

I woke up with a slight ache in my back, likely due to the twin bed I slept on that had a noticeable bump in the middle. Regardless, I felt mentally refreshed and ready for the day ahead.


Today, Adriana, Cameron, Jen, and I had initially planned to visit the New Mexico School for the Deaf. However, our plans took an unexpected turn when we bumped into other Deaf attendees and board members of the National Association of the Deaf at a nearby Starbucks. We discovered that the school we intended to visit was actually located in Santa Fe, not Albuquerque. Instead, we decided to make good use of our time by shopping for groceries to be used at our Airbnb rental.

Arriving at the Albuquerque Hotel in Old Town earlier than anticipated gave us the opportunity to interact with both familiar and new faces. It was a joy to reunite with some people I hadn't seen since my time in Arkansas and others whom I had recently met at the National Black Deaf Advocates conference in Alabama. However, I was also excited to forge connections with new individuals. Our conversations mainly revolved around the activities and needs of our respective Deaf communities. We exchanged strategies and ideas on how to enhance the quality of life for our fellow Deaf community members.




Upon our arrival at the hotel, we unexpectedly encountered Colette Barnes-Maelzer from the Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Luanne Barron from the Kansas School for the Deaf, who were also attending the conference. The fact that we could learn together and collaborate in the future to improve the lives of Deaf individuals in Kansas filled us with anticipation.

Attending the resumed board meeting of the NAD proved to be a valuable experience. Following our meeting, we decided to grab lunch at a local Native American restaurant located within the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Given our limited time, we opted for carry-out so that we could enjoy our meals back at the hotel. We couldn't help but express our satisfaction at the delicious flavors that graced our taste buds.

September 23, 2023

Upon waking up, I noticed a distinct change in how refreshed I felt compared to previous days. It seemed as if my social energy had been replenished overnight. Instead of immediately diving into typing up yesterday's blog entry, I made a conscious choice to prioritize engaging in meaningful conversations with others through text messages, as a way to reinforce my networking goals. Additionally, I had the opportunity to connect with a loved one through a Facetime call, which further boosted my spirits and left me feeling invigorated. Embracing this newfound energy, I felt poised and ready to tackle the day's challenges with confidence.

As the rest of the group got ready, we gathered together and ventured to Starbucks to grab some mental fuel for the day ahead, before proceeding to the hotel where the conference was taking place. It was a great chance to reconnect with individuals I had met over the past couple of days, exchanging warm greetings and catching up, before we all headed off to attend the next workshop, eagerly embracing the learning opportunities it promised.

Parliamentary Training, Part One by Mark Apodaca

Mark began by sharing his personal story and how he became a professional registered parliamentarian, or PRP. He explained that he is the only Deaf person in the United States who has achieved this certification and encouraged others in the audience to pursue becoming a registered parliamentarian (RP), and then a PRP.

In his presentation, Mark provided examples of ineffective types of meetings which include boring, missing in action, argumentative and aggressive, messy communication, intimidated, and a waste of time. He shared his personal collection of parliamentary books, noting that the rules have evolved over time to meet the need for smooth meetings.

Mark then highlighted a list of requirements to be prepared before the start of the meeting, which includes being on time, meeting quorum, the agenda, standing rules, previous meeting minutes, board reports, treasurer’s financial report, committee reports, and any motions for new business. He emphasized that reading minutes during the meeting is unnecessary and time-consuming for Deaf organizations.


Additionally, he clarified that the minutes do not need to include the names of those who seconded a motion. As well, the president can make a motion or vote on any proposed motion during a board meeting if the number of members during the meeting is 12 or less, and a quorum is present.

Moreover, Mark pointed out that a financial report can be presented with questions being requested and that auditors, not the members, are responsible for analyzing the financial aspects of the organization and for sharing reports with the membership. In addition, any old businesses that were not resolved would die after three months of no activity, and bylaws are intended to explain the structure of an organization.

Mark also shared information on the members’ Bill of Rights, which includes the right to attend meetings, the right to make motions, the right to speak in debate, the right to vote, the right to make nominations, and the right to run for office. He explained that the governing documents consist of laws and statutes for nonprofit organizations, articles of incorporation, bylaws, special rules of order (often referred to as standing rules), rules of order (Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised 12th Edition), and standing rules (Administrative).

Mark then discussed three motions that are often misused: Point of Order, Request for Information, and Parliamentary Inquiry. He emphasized that the presiding officer always runs the meeting, while the parliamentarian merely serves as an advisor to provide guidance on the operation of the meetings.

Lastly, Mark highlighted the importance of decorum during meetings, urging members to behave appropriately. In conclusion, Mark’s presentation provided valuable insights into parliamentary procedures and encouraged attendees to pursue a better understanding of this topic in his next Part Two workshop.

After attending the Part One of Mark Apodaca's workshop on Parliamentary Training, I found myself reflecting on the wealth of knowledge I had gained. It became abundantly clear to me that there were numerous misconceptions that the Deaf organizations, particularly the KAD, had been unwittingly practicing during their meetings.

In light of this realization, I made a conscious decision to stay for Part Two of the workshop. I was recognizing that by delving deeper into the intricacies of parliamentary procedures, I could equip myself with the tools to rectify these misconceptions and foster more effective and productive meetings within KAD and other organizations.

Parliamentary Training, Part Two by Mark Apodaca

This workshop, conducted by Mark Apodaca, provided an insightful exploration into the history, principles, and practices of parliamentary procedure. I’m going to summarize the key points covered during the workshop, shedding light on the significance of parliamentary procedures in enabling orderly deliberations and effective decision-making within self-governing organizations.

Mark commenced the workshop by delving into the historical foundations of parliamentary procedure. He emphasized how various civilizations, including ancient Greece and Rome, contributed to the development of democratic systems. The concept of democracy relied on parliamentary procedure, which comprises accepted rules, ethics, and customs governing meetings of an assembly or organization. Mark highlighted how parliamentary procedures facilitate orderly deliberation to reach the sense or the will of the majority within the assembly. He further discussed the English Parliament, established in the 13th century, as a pivotal influence on modern parliamentary practices.

Mark shared historical tidbits about influential figures who made significant contributions to parliamentary procedures. He highlighted Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, who also served as vice president and authored "A Manual of Parliamentary Practice for the Use of the Senate of the United States" in 1801. This publication was the first known parliamentary manual to be published in the United States, showcasing Jefferson's understanding of and commitment to parliamentary procedure. Mark then introduced Luther Cushing, a jurist who wrote "Rules of Proceeding and Debate in Deliberative Assemblies," commonly known as Cushing’s Manual. First published in 1845, this manual remains an important resource on parliamentary procedure with its last edition released in 1964. Mark also covered Brigadier General Henry M. Robert, who drafted Robert’s Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies in 1876. Robert's Rules of Order has since become one of the most widely recognized and utilized manuals on parliamentary procedure, with its most recent edition being the 12th edition released in September 2020.

Moving on, Mark discussed the role of Professional Registered Parliamentarians (PRPs) in the parliamentary world. He compared them to green berets, highlighting their advanced expertise in parliamentary procedure. Mark revealed that the National Association of Parliamentarians has 4,243 members, with only 352 being PRPs. Furthermore, he mentioned that among these PRPs, one is Deaf, adding diversity and inclusivity to the field.

Mark emphasized the crucial roles played by parliamentarians in organizations. Their primary responsibility is to advise officers, members, and committees on matters of parliamentary procedure, ensuring that discussions and decision-making processes adhere to established rules. He stressed the importance of impartiality when offering opinions on points of parliamentary procedure, and the need for parliamentarians to refrain from participating in debates or voting, unless the vote is by ballot and they are also members of the organization. Mark illustrated the significance of impartiality by highlighting potential conflicts of interest that could arise when an organization's officer takes on the additional responsibility of serving as a parliamentarian.

Mark highlighted the achievements of three Deaf individuals who have obtained certifications as parliamentarians. Bummy Burstein, certified as a Certified Parliamentarian (CP) and Certified Professional Parliamentarian (CPP), demonstrated the potential for Deaf individuals to achieve recognition in the field. Libby Pollard, a Registered Parliamentarian (RP), also made significant contributions to parliamentary procedure. Mark himself, as an RP and PRP, served as another example of a Deaf individual excelling in the realm of parliamentary procedure.

Mark clarified that there are two levels of certification for parliamentarians: Registered Parliamentarian (RP) and Professional Registered Parliamentarian (PRP). He described the difference between the two by highlighting the examination requirements. The RP certification involves passing a comprehensive test, while the PRP certification requires re-testing every six years to maintain the certified status. This distinction emphasizes the commitment to continuous learning and staying updated with the latest developments in parliamentary procedures for PRPs. It also reinforces the significance of ongoing professional development and the importance of remaining current in the field of parliamentary procedure. 

Once certified as a PRP, they are required to dedicate themselves to continuous study, read professional journals, conduct research, teach parliamentary procedure, abide by the ethical guidelines set for parliamentarians, write scripts, and even serve as expert witnesses. Mark emphasized the importance of commitment and staying updated with the latest developments in parliamentary procedures.

A substantial portion of the workshop was dedicated to acquainting participants with Robert's Rules of Order, the most widely recognized manual governing parliamentary procedure. Mark provided detailed insights into the latest edition, the 12th edition, consisting of 714 pages covering rules of assembly, meetings, sessions, quorum, order of business, officers, boards, committees, nominations and elections, voting and mass meetings, bylaws, conventions, and disciplinary actions. Mark highlighted that the current edition includes updated rules for electronic meetings, specifically addressing the needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mark discussed the hierarchical structure of authority within organizations, beginning with state statutes and descending through articles of incorporation, bylaws, special rules of order, and ultimately, the rules of order themselves. He emphasized the importance of adhering to these rules while also stressing the significant role members play in the functioning of an organization. Mark highlighted that without active participation and engagement from members, an organization would be non-existent. The members possess the power to control the organization, with the board serving at the pleasure of the members. Additionally, Mark outlined the obligations of members, including punctuality, active participation, focused engagement, respectful debate, voting, adherence to the rulings of the presiding officer, and the demonstration of professionalism and courtesy.

The workshop delved into the procedural aspect of handling motions within parliamentary procedures. Mark outlined the step-by-step process: a member proposes a motion, which is then seconded by another member. The chairperson states the motion, followed by debates among members. Finally, the chairperson conducts a vote, and the outcome is announced. Mark further elucidated the different types of motions, including subsidiary and privileged motions, as well as incidental and bring-back motions, providing participants with a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies involved in the motion process.

These workshops led by Mark Apodaca offered valuable insights into the historical significance, principles, and practices of parliamentary procedure. Participants gained a deeper understanding of the role of parliamentarians, the importance of impartiality, and the essential nature of Robert's Rules of Order. These workshops emphasized the shared responsibility of members to actively engage in meetings, participate in debates, and cast informed votes. Equipped with this newfound knowledge, I’ve left the two workshops ready to contribute to more effective and productive decision-making within the respective organizations I would be part of.

A few hours before the luncheon, I made plans with a new colleague from Montana to have lunch together during the event. We communicated through text messages to arrange this. She is deeply committed to advocating for the Deaf community in her state, and we recognized how our backgrounds, experiences, and skills could complement each other. During the luncheon, I was pleased to see her being recognized for completing the Deaf Education Advocate Training courses.

After lunch, I made the choice to attend the workshop titled "Taking on Racism in our Deaf Communities," which was led by Vyron Kinson and Alan Wilding. Unfortunately, Alan was unable to be physically present at the conference due to being infected with COVID-19. However, he had prepared video clips that were shown on the projector screen by Vyron.

During the workshop, both Alan and Vyron were introduced to the audience. Alan's video clips were played, and Vyron took the stage to discuss the NAD commitment to addressing and dismantling racism as a priority. He mentioned the various steps being taken by the NAD, such as conducting webinars, developing curriculum, providing information in ASL, and ensuring that board and staff members receive training and education. Vyron also highlighted the existence of the Inclusive Transformative Committee, a diversity strategy team within the NAD that includes members from diverse backgrounds to facilitate board training and education.

Alan, through his video clips, explained that the NAD is offering a curriculum focused on dismantling racism, which can be used by states or organizations for training purposes. Vyron presented a slide outlining how we all can participate in the healing process together. This included actively listening, being comfortable with discomfort, refraining from becoming defensive, seeking guidance on what actions should be taken, actively engaging with BIPOC individuals involved, and being willing to examine our biases, internalized racism, and privileges.

In addition, a video featuring Rosa Lee provided insight into the importance of taking into account the impact of our words and actions, rather than just focusing on our intentions.

One of the most engaging aspects of the workshop was the interactive activities. The audience was divided into small groups to discuss and address a list of racist concepts.

By the end of the workshop, I came to realize that there is much more for us to learn and understand regarding the dismantling of existing structures that perpetuate racist policies, practices, and procedures. These barriers prevent non-white members of our organization, the KAD, from fully participating on par with their white counterparts. Armed with this newfound knowledge from the workshop and other sessions during our KAD's retreat on October 7th to 9th, I now have a plan to address these issues for us to work towards a more inclusive and equitable environment.

After the final workshop of the conference, I made my way to the designated room where a caucus was held to discuss the technological issues that impact our Deaf community. As I sat through the session, I observed audience members sharing their concerns with the board and staff of the NAD. These concerns were documented in real-time in an online document displayed on the projector screen. Engaging discussions took place regarding the use of Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) instead of on-site sign language interpreters, the challenges faced in communicating with overseas banks, and instances of Deaf profiling by TSA agents at airports, leading to invasive personal searches. I discovered that the board and staff members would compile and present these concerns as suggested priorities at the NAD conference scheduled for the following year in Chicago.

The conclusion of the conference culminated in the enjoyable New Mexico's Deaf Night Out event. This gathering took place at a local venue boasting charming small restaurants and a well-lit open outdoor space. Excitedly, I joined my fellow group members at the venue, where I had the opportunity to indulge in delicious Puerto Rican cuisine and beverages. As we sat down together, engaging in lively conversations, we savored our late dinner. Interestingly, I happened to be one of the few remaining individuals when the event drew to a close. Conscious of the long drive back to my home in Kansas, I bid farewell and headed to bed promptly, longing for a restful night's sleep. It was well past midnight by the time I finally nestled into my bed, ready to rejuvenate for the journey the next day.

Dominic Harrison facilitated a Racial Equity Training session during the NLTC, which was mandatory for all attendees. I remembered him and his dog from when he visited the Museum of Deaf History, Art, and Culture in Olathe while I was working as a docent tour guide. Although I won't delve into the specifics of the training in this blog post, I believe it's crucial for readers to recognize the importance of contacting Dominic to arrange for these training sessions in their own states. They have the power to equip every Deaf community with essential knowledge and skills.


Overall, the training session not only provided us with an opportunity to engage in uncomfortable conversations but also taught us how to continue these discussions within our respective Deaf communities back home. I'm certain that all six of us are eagerly anticipating the development of a racial equity plan in our states. Such a plan would ensure that every diverse member of the Deaf community can actively participate in the political sphere and contribute to meaningful improvements.


Following the training, we joined a group of Deaf individuals from Montana at a local brewery and restaurant. This occasion allowed us to get to know one another and learn about the work we were all engaged in. Upon our return to the hotel, we attended the NLTC Kick-Off session, where we were randomly assigned to tables. It was an exciting moment for me to find myself seated next to Kitsonia Hancock, the current president of the Arkansas Association of the Deaf. As readers may recall, I am originally from Arkansas and have connections with many Deaf members there.


After the kickoff session, we returned to our Airbnb rental and made plans for our morning commute back to the hotel. Then, I retired for the night, eagerly awaiting the adventures that awaited us in the morning.

September 20, 2023

Reflecting on my recent road trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the National Association of the Deaf Leadership Training Conference (NLTC), I am filled with anticipation and excitement for the knowledge and growth it will bring. As I consider the invaluable experiences awaiting me, my primary focus is on enhancing my skills to better serve the Deaf community in Kansas. The NLTC presents an exceptional opportunity to learn from esteemed leaders and experts in the field and acquire the necessary tools to make a positive impact in my community. With this in mind, I eagerly await the chance to immerse myself in the conference's enriching environment. I hope to gain insights that will shape my future endeavors in service to the Deaf community.

We started our journey this morning. It was a long drive in a rented SUV with three of my colleagues - Adriana Gonzalez, Cameron Symansky, and Jennifer Mason. As we drove through the western part of Kansas, the panhandle of Oklahoma, the western part of Texas, and to the rugged beauty of New Mexico's middle region. I couldn't help but feel in awe of the changing landscape scenery that surrounded us. From vast plains to rolling hills, and then to the arid desert, the beauty of our country never ceased to amaze me.




During our ten-hour drive, punctuated by brief bathroom and gas stops, we had ample opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations and deepen our understanding of one another. I was particularly captivated by the thought-provoking discussions I had with Adriana and Cameron, as we exchanged insights into our individual aspirations and desired areas of growth. We delved into the specific workshops and sessions offered at the NLTC, contemplating which ones would best align with our personal goals and enable us to enhance our ability to serve the Deaf community. These conversations not only broadened my appreciation for my colleagues' diverse perspectives and experiences but also heightened my excitement about the upcoming conference. It reinforced the importance of continuously seeking knowledge and refining our skills to better advocate for and support the Deaf community.

After arriving in Albuquerque, we ended our day with a satisfying dinner at a local sushi restaurant. Our accommodation is a conveniently located Airbnb, just a 7-minute walk away from the NLTC venue. This proximity will make it easy for us to make our way to the conference without any hassle.


Driving for the entirety of this road trip, I came to the realization that a destination isn't the only thing that matters. It is also the journey that leads us there and the people we encounter along the way. Connecting with my colleagues and appreciating the changing landscapes has reminded me of the incredible diversity and beauty that our country possesses. This has been a valuable experience, highlighting the importance of embracing both the journey and its many elements. This is rather than solely focusing on reaching our final destination.

I'm looking forward to the NLTC and the opportunities it will bring. We're also planning to visit the New Mexico School for the Deaf in the morning before the conference starts, which I think will add even more value to our trip. For now, I'm grateful for the connections I will make and the chance to reflect on this journey. Good night.

National Black Deaf Advocates  (NBDA) Conference
reported by Chris Haulmark

Image:  Chris, Adriana, & Jen at the Vulcan Park in Birmingham, AL  8.8.2023

August 13, 2023

As we bid adieu to our cozy Airbnb rental, anticipation filled the air as we embarked on our journey to the airport. The Uber ride served as a tranquil moment of reflection, where I gazed out of the window, observing the ever-changing scenery of Birmingham. Each passing landscape seemed to deepen the profound transformation that had taken place within me during the conference.


Meeting such remarkable individuals and immersing myself in their wisdom had left an indelible mark on my soul. It was as though a calling had been awakened within me, urging me to return to my home in Kansas and share the wealth of knowledge I had acquired with my Deaf community. The layers of growth experienced during the conference instilled in me a resolute determination to shoulder the immense responsibility that lay before me.


Upon arriving at the airport, I was greeted by the efficient boarding process that whisked me onto the plane, with a brief stopover in Dallas before reaching our final destination of Kansas City. The gentle touchdown was a familiar embrace, welcoming me back to the place I called home. Seeking connection and camaraderie, Jen and I joined a gathering of Deaf friends at a quaint restaurant and bar. There, we engaged in spirited rounds of bingo, finding solace and sharing experiences within the laughter and joy of the game. Despite the exhaustion of our eventful expedition, the energy of the evening buoyed our spirits and left us with warm memories.


As the day grew late, I bid farewell to my companions and set forth on the final leg of my journey. Seated in the back seat of the Uber, I contemplated the profound education I had received at the conference. My initial expectations were modest, but the depth and breadth of knowledge I had obtained left me in awe. The magnitude of the task now before me loomed large, but with each passing moment, I felt more equipped to face the challenge. It was my responsibility and privilege to meticulously process the myriad layers of wisdom I had acquired, ensuring that these transformative insights would ignite positive change within the Deaf community in Kansas.


Deaf communities, with their diverse backgrounds and rich cultural heritage, beckoned for unity and upliftment. I found solace in companionship on this journey as I embarked on it. Adriana and Jen stood ready to join me to connect with other Deaf people and share our stories. Our bond extended beyond our travels and contributed to the cause of our Deaf community. The trip was a success, and we returned with a renewed sense of unity and a firm commitment to advocate for Deaf rights.

August 12, 2023

I woke up bright and early, filled with excitement, as I had plans to meet a new friend before the start of the general meeting at 8 am. We decided to make the most of our time by meeting at 6 am and grabbing breakfast at a cozy little cafe right in the hotel building. As we sat down together, I couldn't help but feel a sense of anticipation. Little did I know just how special this conversation would turn out to be. Over breakfast, we shared stories, dreams, and our deep-rooted motivation to make a positive impact in our Deaf community. It was an inspiring and emotional experience to connect with someone who shared the same drive and passion as me. In that moment, I realized the power of forming new connections and the strength that can come from working together towards a common goal. I left that breakfast feeling even more determined to make a difference and grateful for the opportunity to cross paths with such an incredible individual.


The board meeting held on the final day of the conference had elements of organization and order, but it also had moments that felt a bit rough and less than smooth. Despite efforts to adhere to the bylaws and Robert's Rules of Order, there were some bumps along the way. The meeting went beyond its scheduled time, pushing from 2 pm to 2:30 pm. With over 200 members in attendance and Isidore Niyongabo as the President of the National Black Deaf Advocates presiding, certain parts of the meeting proceeded as expected. However, there were instances where things felt a bit chaotic or less-than-fluid. Despite these hiccups, the meeting continued, and the necessary business was conducted. Ultimately, the meeting's ability to navigate through the bumps and rough patches demonstrated resilience and a commitment to fulfilling their obligations.


One of the highlights of the meeting was the election process, which involved the distribution of paper ballots for members to complete and turn in before the meeting was temporarily adjourned. Once I left the meeting, I returned home to dress up for the upcoming gala event, opting to skip the second half of the meeting. When I arrived at the hotel with Adriana and Jen at the gala, we were enraptured by the elegant courses of food and the inspiring speakers and performers who graced the stage. One significant announcement was the decision to host their next conference in 2025 at Kansas City. This exciting revelation sparked discussions and buzz among the attendees. As the evening drew to a close, we made our way back to our Airbnb rental property, where I changed into more comfortable clothes before heading back to the hotel to chat with people until the early morning hours. As some conference-goers left for the airport, marking the end of their time in Birmingham, Alabama, I headed back to the rental property to pack and catch a few hours of sleep before heading to the airport myself.

August 11, 2023

I woke up feeling both tired and excited to tackle the task of writing this report. With only six hours of sleep, I dedicated two hours to pouring everything I learned from the workshops into this document. The feedback I received from Deaf individuals regarding the previous reports has filled me with a sense of fulfillment and motivation to continue this valuable work. It's been incredible to witness how these reports have proven to be beneficial in supporting the Deaf community.


Once I finished writing the report, I eagerly made my way to the first workshop of the day. Before entering the session, I treated myself to a refreshing iced coffee from a cozy Starbucks shop conveniently located in the hotel. As fate would have it, I had the pleasure of connecting and forming a bond with a fascinating Black Deaf individual. Our friendship flourished over the next few days and resulted in Kansas City being chosen as the host for the upcoming NBDA conference in 2025.


African American English (AAVE) - Our Language and How It Impacts Interpreting by Sharon G. Hill

The origins of African American English (AAVE) can be traced back to the Africans who arrived in America during the early years. It was through their gatherings that language was shared and formed the basis of AAVE.

Purpose of AAVE
Ebonics: AAVE serves as a way for African Americans to recharge after conversing with friends and family before work. It is a form of language that provides comfort, allowing individuals to feel at ease. Similar to wearing comfortable clothing at home, AAVE offers a relaxed and familiar linguistic style.

Cultural Identity:
AAVE is a language that represents the cultural identity of African Americans. It deviates from formal language norms and instead embraces a more comfortable and authentic expression, akin to the attire one would wear at home.

Participants in AAVE Interpreting

White Training: It is worth noting that black interpreters are mainly trained by individuals who are not from their own community, often conducted by white interpreters.

Dialect Differences: The use of various dialects of spoken English across America serves as an example of the linguistic diversity within AAVE. However, the representation of African American language and culture is often overlooked or stripped away by white interpreters and black interpreters trained by non-black individuals.

Importance of AAVE

Linguistic Research: African American English has garnered significant interest in the field of linguistics, becoming a major area of research (Weldon, 2021).

Identity Marker: AAVE is not merely a dialect, but a systematic language rooted in history. It serves as an important identity marker and expressive resource for African Americans (Rickford et al., 2015).

Example of AAVE Interpreting

Lack of Cultural Nuance: A short video clip showcased Sharon Hill using sign language to interpret AAVE to ASL. However, it became apparent that the cultural and heritage aspects of AAVE were not fully represented in her signing.

Misrepresentation in Media: Various television shows featuring predominantly Black characters were presented as examples. It was observed that many of the scripts were written by white individuals, leading to the omission of cultural and heritage aspects of AAVE in the spoken language.

Addressing the Issue

To overcome these challenges and ensure proper representation and recognition of AAVE in interpreting, the following actions are recommended:

Realign interpreter training to include African American representation and understanding of AAVE.

Update interpreting materials to include AAVE and ASL varieties, highlighting the cultural and heritage aspects.

Recognize and represent the linguistic diversity of AAVE and ASL, acknowledging their importance as expressive resources for communities.

Encourage individuals to reconnect with their language and community, embracing the richness of AAVE and the cultural significance it holds.

Timeline of AAVE History

The timeline of AAVE history showcases key milestones and moments:

1526: African people were first brought to America, marking the beginning of AAVE.

Various entries on the timeline highlight significant periods when AAVE language was recognized and acknowledged.

2022: The timeline concludes with the First AAVE-To-ASL Mixed Methods Interpreting Research Study conducted by Sharon Grissby Hill.

As this workshop comes to a close, I find myself grappling with a mix of emotions. The newfound understanding of the oppression faced by African American English within the dominant American English language has deeply touched me. The stark reality of the misinterpretation and underrepresentation of AAVE in various settings, including interpreting, is a pressing issue that demands our attention.

As a white person who has just been exposed to the complexities of AAVE, I feel a profound sense of responsibility. It is now clear to me that realigning interpreter training, updating materials, recognizing and representing AAVE and its diverse varieties, and reconnecting with language and community are crucial steps in addressing this important matter. It is my duty to contribute to this collective effort and work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable environment for all.

This journey has been eye-opening, and I am humbled by the depths of the linguistic richness and cultural significance held within AAVE. Moving forward, I am eager to continue learning, unlearning, and engaging in conversations that promote understanding and respect. Armed with this knowledge, I am committed to dismantling the barriers that inhibit the proper recognition and appreciation of AAVE.

As I left for the next workshop, I mingled with a few new friends.

A Interconnectedness Pathway in the Leadership Development Model by Franly Ulerio-Nunez

The Principles of Interconnectedness

Franly introduced the principles of interconnectedness, which serve as the foundation for effective leadership practices. The key principles discussed include:

Intersectionality: Recognizing and respecting the diverse backgrounds and identities of individuals.

Interconnectivity: Emphasizing the importance of cultivating relationships with people who genuinely care.

Wholeness: Addressing the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals.

Truth: Honoring and valuing lived experiences as authentic.

Compassion: Letting go of oppressive structures and promoting a more compassionate approach.

Freedom: Empowering individuals to decide and strategize on how to collectively address challenges.

RJ Leadership Practices and Hindrances:
Franly outlined leadership practices that are aligned with Restorative Justice principles and potential hindrances to effective leadership. The highlighted practices and hindrances are as follows:

Leadership Practices:
Collectivism: Valuing the collective efforts and collaboration of a group.

Trust: Building trust within teams and communities to foster productive relationships.

People’s need-centered policy: Prioritizing the needs and well-being of individuals.

Anti-oppressive mentality: Challenging oppressive systems and promoting inclusion and equality.

Equity: Ensuring fairness and equal opportunities for all individuals.

Flexible social movements: Embracing adaptability and innovation within social movements.

Community agreement: Encouraging participation and shared decision-making in community matters.

Hindrances to RJ Leadership:
Authoritarianism: Applying an authoritative leadership style that suppresses the input of others.

Loyalty: Prioritizing loyalty to individuals or entities over ethical decision-making.

Corporate-centered policy: Focusing on organizational interests instead of the well-being of individuals.

Oppressive mentality: Holding biases and perpetuating discriminatory practices.

Competition: Fostering a competitive environment that undermines collaboration and mutual support.

Rigidity: Resisting change and maintaining rigid structures that impede progress.

Busyness: Prioritizing productivity without considering the impact on individuals' well-being.

Scenario Activities and Discussion:
The workshop included scenario activities that prompted participants to analyze real-life situations through the lens of Restorative Justice. Three examples were provided:

A student being transferred to a community college due to disruptive behavior. Participants were encouraged to consider how RJ principles could guide their response.

An employee being transferred to another department due to being overly passionate. Participants discussed how RJ leadership practices could be applied in such a situation.

An emergency plan that fails to address the needs of individuals with disabilities. Participants explored potential solutions and discussed the importance of inclusivity in emergency planning.

Throughout the discussion of these scenarios, participants engaged in open dialogue and shared their perspectives on applying Restorative Justice principles in various circumstances.

This workshop was a great opportunity to learn about effective leadership through Restorative Justice principles. We learned that effective leadership means being compassionate and understanding of others, even if they come from diverse backgrounds and heritage backgrounds. By embracing the principles of interconnectedness, we can build relationships with people who genuinely care and create a more inclusive and respectful community. The workshop also taught us to value and be respectful of someone's lived experiences and embrace a collective effort to support each other. We discussed different scenarios, like a disruptive student or an overly passionate employee, and how to apply Restorative Justice practices and foster a more compassionate approach. Overall, the workshop showed us how we can improve the quality of life for Deaf people and everyone else by being inclusive and empathetic and creating a more supportive and understanding community.

I was super excited when my old friend from Texas invited me yesterday to have lunch at Texas de Brazil. For lunch, just the two of us sat together at our table, and I couldn't believe how cool it was when the waiter staff brought out a salad bar and a bunch of different meats on sticks. They dropped meat right onto our plates whenever we wanted more. We chatted and caught up on our lives. It was so much fun sharing stories and talking about how we've grown with people coming in and leaving our lives. Eventually, it was time to head back to the conference. But I left with a big smile on my face because I had such an enjoyable time hanging out with my friend.

We returned to the conference after lunch for me to attend the next workshop.

ChatGPT: The Promising Potentials of Artificial Intelligence for Deaf people by Bakar Ali and Kemoy Campbell

Bakar Ali and Kemoy Campbell delivered an insightful presentation on the evolution of technology and accessibility, highlighting the significance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Deaf people. The speakers traced the progression from devices such as TTY, Nokia phones, to the advent of the iPhone. AI, in essence, refers to the ability of machines to imitate human intelligence.

One of the essential components of intelligence discussed during the presentation included the ability to learn and acquire new knowledge. Furthermore, self-correction, reasoning, and creativity were emphasized as integral aspects of intelligence. Human intelligence, distinguished as complex, creative, intuitive, empathetic, and flexible, was also explored in detail.

The discussion then transitioned to the key components of AI and how they encompass the broader picture of emulating human intelligence. These components include machine learning, deep learning, cognitive computing, computer vision, neural networks, and natural language processing (NLP). These technologies allow machines to process vast amounts of data, interpret and learn from it, and perform complex calculations.

The speakers highlighted the various benefits of AI and computers. They noted how AI facilitates efficiency by processing and analyzing large volumes of data efficiently and swiftly. Moreover, AI enables precision in performing repetitive tasks and offers adaptability by continuously learning and improving. It was also emphasized that AI possesses the power to handle intricate calculations more efficiently than humans, ensuring reliability through automated 24/7 operation.

This workshop then delved into the specific examples of ChatGPT and Bard, two large language models (LLMs) trained on extensive datasets of text and code. These LLMs have the potential to generate text, translate languages, produce creative content, and answer questions informatively. The presenters highlighted how ChatGPT and Bard can significantly benefit Deaf people by enhancing communication opportunities, providing improved access to information, increasing independence, reducing isolation, and ultimately improving their quality of life.

Furthermore, the speakers discussed how ChatGPT and Bard can facilitate communication for Deaf individuals through text-based conversations with friends, family, and colleagues. They also highlighted the role of these AI models in reading news articles, conducting research, learning new skills, and completing various tasks. Examples included making appointments, making reservations, and ordering food.

The presentation concluded with a discussion of specific use cases for ChatGPT and Bard, including real-time captioning for increased communication access and the ability to make phone calls using AI to speak for Deaf individuals. These AI models can also summarize video content and news articles and assist in creating prompts for writing emails, letters, or blog posts. The speakers highlighted the versatility of ChatGPT and Bard, providing useful prompts such as helping with grammar fixes, proofreading, summarizing information, and explaining complex concepts.

The presenters also explored the future development of AI, envisioning a world where AI-powered devices become more common and affordable. They emphasized the potential applications of AI in healthcare, education, transportation, and the environment. The speakers concluded by expressing optimism about the future impact of AI on the Deaf community and society as a whole.

Overall, Bakar Ali and Kemoy Campbell provided a comprehensive and engaging presentation on the immense potential of AI for Deaf people. Their insightful discussion shed light on the role of AI in enhancing communication, access to information, and overall quality of life. The presentation sparked excitement about the future of AI development and its transformative effects on various aspects of society.

This workshop has given me a deep understanding of the advantages of using AI to interact in a society that is predominantly centered around spoken languages. It's clear to me now how crucial it is to provide education and support to the Deaf population, enabling them to navigate and leverage AI technologies to greatly enhance their quality of life. With AI, Deaf individuals can access information more easily, communicate with others effectively, and even accomplish tasks that were once difficult. This is especially significant for those who may not be bilingual or possess strong writing skills, as AI serves as a bridge, breaking down communication barriers and ensuring equal opportunities for learning, working, and connecting with others. By embracing the power of AI and empowering the Deaf community with the knowledge and tools they need, we can create a more inclusive and accessible world where everyone has the same opportunities, regardless of their abilities. It's an exciting vision for the future, and I am inspired to be a part of making it a reality.

After attending this workshop, I couldn't help but feel grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow from such an incredible experience. Throughout this entire conference, I've been exposed to so many fascinating subjects, and today's workshop on the advantages of using AI to communicate in a society dominated by spoken languages was no exception. As I chatted with some familiar friends after the last workshop of the conference, I felt a sense of appreciation for the connections I'd made and the sense of community that was built throughout this conference. Later that evening, I opted to skip dinner to recharge my batteries. I was excited to have some little extra time to experiment with the ChatGPT technology we learned about in the workshop in my bedroom. To my amazement, I discovered that I could use ChatGPT to create captioning files for YouTube videos, separating the speakers by using HTML color codes. It was a rewarding and empowering experience, and I went to bed that night feeling grateful for all that I had learned and all that I could do with this newfound knowledge.

August 10, 2023

I woke up today eager to complete the report on yesterday's events. Documenting our experiences and sharing them with the Deaf community in Kansas is a crucial task. With a renewed sense of purpose, I dedicated my morning to ensuring the report would be a valuable addition to our ongoing KAD journey.


As I put the final touches on the report, I couldn't help but feel a sense of accomplishment. This report had to be a shining beacon, illuminating our experiences and guiding the way for others in the Deaf community. With each word and sentence, I carefully crafted a map, charting the path we had taken and highlighting the valuable lessons we had learned. Like a skilled cartographer mapping unexplored territories, I am meticulously documenting our journey, ensuring that it would serve as a compass for future explorers of the Deaf world.


In this report, as in previous ones, and in future ones, I want to accurately convey the impact and depth of knowledge we gained from them.


Adriana and Jen had already headed to the hotel to join the first workshop of the day, while I knew attending the NBDA conference was essential. It was an opportunity to further immerse myself in this part of the Deaf community and continue my learning journey. Filled with excitement, I left our place and went to the hotel to catch the second workshop of the day.


Finding Adriana there brought me relief, and together we entered the workshop hosted by Melinni Taylor.


Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) & Early Social Security Retirement: Know your Options


Melinni Taylor, a certified Community Work Incentives Coordinator and a seasoned social worker, was the presenter of this workshop. Taylor provided detailed explanations of the differences between SSDI and Social Security Income (SSI), SSDI eligibility requirements, and how it is determined based on work history, monthly earning limits, and the process of appealing a decision when denied SSDI benefits.


Taylor explained that physical and mental impairments lasting more than 12 months or likely to result in death qualify for SSDI benefits. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals must meet specific decibel hearing loss levels to meet SSDI’s eligibility requirements.


Furthermore, Taylor discussed the three phases under the Social Security Administration's return-to-work program: Trial Work Period (TWP), Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE), and Post-EPE. TWP allows a nine-month trial period where the benefactor can earn unlimited income while receiving SSDI benefits. However, a month of the TWP is triggered when the monthly earnings exceed $1050. TWP can be reset every 5 years as long as the nine-month trial period has not been exhausted.


After TWP, benefactors enter EPE. Benefactors must earn less than $1450 per month during the three-year or 36-month EPE period to continue receiving SSDI, but if they exceed this limit, their SSDI benefits will be suspended. However, there are special considerations that can be applied for months that exceed the $1450 limit, allowing benefactors to keep receiving their SSDI benefits. Post-EPE is the period after the 36 months of EPE are completed. In this period, if benefactors earn over $1450 per month, their SSDI benefits will be terminated. Benefactors must go through the application process again - the Expedited Reinstatement (EXR) - to have their SSDI benefits reinstated.


In the workshop, Taylor emphasized the importance of understanding the difference between SSDI and RBI. For example, benefactors born after 1960 can earn Retirement Insurance Benefits (RBI) after the age of 67. However, they can receive SSDI before full retirement age and once they reach retirement age, their SSDI will turn into RBI.


Taylor concluded the workshop by acknowledging the challenging task of detailing every aspect of SSDI and RBI benefits in such a short amount of time. This was especially when audience members asked complex questions that required detailed explanations. Nonetheless, the workshop may have left the audience with a comprehensive understanding of SSDI and early retirement benefits and the crucial factors to consider before and during the application process.


After attending Taylor’s engaging workshop, Adriana and I were ready to grab a bite to eat. Wanting to have lunch with some friends, we decided that Uptown Cantina would be the perfect spot. As we walked towards the restaurant, we chatted about what we had been up to lately and caught up on the latest news from our mutual acquaintances. However, upon reaching our destination, we encountered a problem. The restaurant informed us that there was a 15-minute wait for a table. After waiting for a bit and realizing that time was not on our side, as we wouldn't have sufficient time for ordering, preparation, and enjoyment of our meal, we regrettably opted to skip lunch and swiftly returned to the hotel for the next workshop. Here's where Jen joined us.


In the workshop on "Language Deprivation and its Impact on the Parent-Child Relationship," Ukawia Johnson highlighted the crucial role of language in a child's development and the potential consequences of language deprivation. She presented three main objectives: describing language deprivation, explaining its potential impact, and emphasizing the importance of Deaf adult representation.


The first objective focused on understanding language deprivation. Johnson emphasized that language is much more than just talking and listening; it plays a vital role in expressing and understanding feelings, critical thinking and learning, problem-solving, and relationship building. In addition, cultural and heritage traditions are essential for young children to create a sense of self-identity. Language deprivation, on the other hand, refers to the lack of exposure to language during the critical period of language acquisition. It can result from various barriers, including mental, physical, emotional, and social factors.


Johnson highlighted several contributing factors to language deprivation. These factors include the impact of the message conveyed to families after the birth screening of a Deaf child, the acceptance of the new Deaf identity by parents, limited knowledge about Deaf culture, inconsistent information shared by medical professionals, inadequate state agencies and resources, inconsistency in handling family and social crises, and biases toward Deaf individuals and their cultural backgrounds. The negative perception of Deaf people and the lack of authentic representation further contribute to language deprivation.


The second objective emphasized how language access promotes rich language development, incidental learning, family connections, bonding, and literacy. Johnson underlined the importance of providing Deaf children with access to language to ensure their overall development and well-being.


The third objective explored the potential impact of language deprivation. Johnson identified behavior concerns, emotional regulation difficulties, disconnection from families, cognitive delays, mental health challenges, lower quality of life, higher levels of trauma, social-emotional difficulties, and limited literacy as some of the potential consequences of language deprivation.


Johnson also highlighted the significance of Deaf adult representation in supporting Deaf children. She emphasized the importance of assigning Deaf family specialists who can help parents navigate the developmental journey of their children while ensuring language access. In this context, Johnson mentioned the example of President Obama being a role model for young Black and other BIPOC children, emphasizing the importance of dreams and possibilities.


During the workshop, Kianna Kilpetrick, a hearing mother of a Deaf child, shared her experiences and decisions upon learning about her son being Deaf. Kilpetrick provided hearing aids and cochlear implants for her son but had never encountered a Black Deaf individual until she was introduced to one. Through this encounter, Kilpetrick and her family learned sign language and Deaf culture, creating a support system for her son to become bilingual. Kilpetrick highlighted that success is not dependent on the ability to hear. What Kianna had accomplished was praised and celebrated by the audience.


Additionally, Johnson discussed the roles of Deaf community members, emphasizing their responsibility to educate, engage, model, demonstrate, and mentor. Deaf children require full access to language, a supportive environment, strong family involvement, language models, high expectations, and positive role models.


The workshop concluded with Johnson reinforcing the importance of ensuring Deaf children are "school ready" by providing them with a solid foundation in language.


This workshop shed light on the importance of language access for Deaf children and the potential consequences of language deprivation. It highlighted the need for comprehensive support systems, strong family involvement, and Deaf adult representation to ensure optimal development and well-being for Deaf children. The workshop served as a call to action for community support and involvement in facilitating language access and inclusivity for Deaf children.


As I reflect on this workshop, I am overcome with a sense of responsibility. The insights offered by this workshop have shown me that Deaf children face many challenges and obstacles, and the importance of language access for their well-being cannot be overstated. This has led me to understand that advocating for Deaf children's rights requires a comprehensive approach, involving family members, Deaf leaders, and organizations.


After the workshop ended, Adriana, Jen, and I engaged in friendly conversations and captured some memorable pictures before departing from the workshop room. Later in the day, the National Black Deaf Advocates held their general meeting, but we made a collective decision not to attend. Instead, we found ourselves in the lobby, seeking a moment of respite. As we awaited our friend, who was participating in the meeting, we had brief interactions with other individuals who approached us.


During this time, I had the delightful opportunity to enjoy a cup of root beer soda-infused ice cream: the root beer float. The combination of flavors was absolutely delicious, adding a touch of sweetness to the evening. As the general meeting carried on longer than anticipated, we patiently waited until it concluded. Ultimately, our plans for dinner were able to proceed as anticipated. Our friend who participated in the general meeting was able to join us, along with another individual whom we happened to encounter and invited to join our party. Throughout the meal, the four of us engaged in meaningful conversations about the connections between family and friends within our Deaf community. We also pondered the future of various Deaf organizations, considering the internal changes that were taking place. It was a truly engaging and thought-provoking discussion.


Three of us headed back to our Airbnb rental property to rest for the night.

August 9, 2023

This morning, Adriana, Jen, and I walked 15 minutes from the Airbnb rental property. During this time, we chatted about our plans for the day and selected workshops to attend. Upon arriving at the hotel, we recognized some people we met yesterday and made new acquaintances. We attended the Welcome Ceremony, hosted by the president of the National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA), Isidore Niyongabo. We met some of the organizers of the conference on-stage. Afterward, we proceeded to our first workshop of the day. Before I got there, I was intrigued by exhibits showcasing the history of prominent Black leaders in Deaf culture. I learned some key insights and took notes to include in my tour guide work at the Museum of Deaf History, Art, and Culture.


Workshop: Exposure to Interpreting as a Career Option: Connecting the Community to Prospective Interpreters to Build a Thriving Diverse Workforce


This workshop discussed the importance of exposure to interpreting as a career option and its connection to building a thriving and diverse workforce. The research conducted by Jonathan Roman focused on the need for more diversity in the interpreting profession, particularly among BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) interpreters. The report delves into the reasons behind the need for diversity. It highlights the initial awareness and exposure of interpreters to the profession, and provides insight into how to recruit more BIPOC interpreters in the future.



Why Do We Need More Diversity?


Research reveals that currently, only 17% of interpreters in the field are BIPOC individuals. This statistic emphasizes the need to increase diversity within the interpreting profession. In addition, differences in dialects based on regional and cultural backgrounds highlight the importance of having interpreters with similar cultural backgrounds. This is to effectively serve diverse communities. Recruiting and guiding BIPOC interpreters is essential to foster a more inclusive interpreting workforce.


Roman’s Research Findings


Roman’s research sought to answer key questions regarding awareness of interpreting and pursuit of a interpreting career among individuals. Some of the main questions addressed in the study were:


Is there a difference in the locations where individuals become aware of professional interpreting?


Is there a difference in the locations where individuals gain knowledge about interpreters?


Upon analyzing the data, the research revealed a significant disparity between the number of white interpreters and BIPOC interpreters. The majority of interpreters are white, indicating a need for greater representation and opportunities for BIPOC individuals within the profession.


Initial Awareness and Pursuit of Career


The research found that 71% of individuals decided to pursue a career in interpreting upon their first exposure to professional interpreting. This suggests that initial awareness plays a crucial role in influencing career choices. Additionally, 29% of interpreters decided to pursue a career in interpreting after becoming involved in the Deaf community. This highlights the impact of firsthand experiences and interactions on career decisions.


Exposure to Interpreters


The research findings underscore the importance of making positive first impressions on individuals considering a career in interpreting. Initial exposure to other professional interpreters significantly influenced the decision to pursue interpreting as a career. These encounters provided valuable insights and inspiration for potential interpreters.


How to Increase Awareness for Recruiting BIPOC Interpreters


To successfully recruit more BIPOC interpreters, specific avenues of awareness must be explored. The research identified the following methods for increasing awareness:


ASL Classes: Many BIPOC interpreters became aware of interpreting through college-level ASL classes. However, there was less awareness among individuals who participated in ASL classes during high school. Expanding access to ASL classes in high schools, particularly in Black-dominant schools, is crucial for promoting awareness and interest in interpreting.


Deaf Family and Friends: Informal exposure to interpreting through personal connections with Deaf family members, friends, or hearing friends can also play a role in generating interest in the profession.


Organizations: Formal exposure to interpreting was reported through associations such as the National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA) and RID (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf). These organizations provide valuable resources and opportunities for individuals to learn about interpreting and connect with the Deaf community.


QA Session and Recommendations


A QA session following the research presentation discussed ways to encourage BIPOC individuals interested in learning ASL to pursue interpreting or become ASL teachers. Issues were raised regarding the lack of ASL classes in Black-dominant schools compared to predominantly white schools. Recommendations were made to facilitate one-to-one conversations between BIPOC students and Deaf role models to prevent a lag in signing skills development. Furthermore, it was emphasized that the Deaf community should actively welcome and appreciate BIPOC interpreters and teachers for their valuable contributions.


What I've learned is that promoting interpreting as a career option is crucial to building a thriving and diverse workforce. Increasing diversity in the interpreting profession will not only ensure accurate and culturally sensitive communication. It will also create a more inclusive environment for all individuals within the Deaf community. By implementing recruitment techniques, expanding access to ASL classes, and fostering supportive networks and organizations, we can encourage and uplift BIPOC individuals interested in pursuing careers as interpreters or ASL teachers.



The workshop we attended later in the day was also insightful, and I left with a new level of appreciation for the Black leaders who played pivotal roles in Deaf culture. It was a productive and engaging morning.


After Roman's workshop, we eagerly departed for the next workshop. With a fifteen-minute break before the next workshop, I had the opportunity to connect with other attendees. I meandered through the booths, engaging in conversations and taking in the information they had to offer. I felt a profound sense of fulfillment and joy as I moved from one booth to another. As I immersed myself in this Deaf space, I felt an indescribable sense of belonging and connection. It was a powerful reminder of the vibrant Deaf community and the strength we derive from coming together through shared experiences.


Workshop: Police Interactions in the Deaf Community

The purpose of this workshop was to discuss how they are educating law enforcement agencies and departments about effective communication strategies and policies. This workshop also covered the background and experiences of the hosts as well as the topics discussed.


Hosts and Background:


A significant amount of time in this workshop was dedicated to the hosts' personal backgrounds. James Sobota began the workshop by introducing himself as a former member of the Houston Police Department with 38 years' experience. He shared his family background, including how his father escaped from Nazi-occupied Poland and settled in New York City. Sobota joined the police force at the age of 27 and was inspired to learn about Deaf culture ten years ago. Emmanuel Eziashi, a native of Niger, shared that he had Dr. Andrew Foster as his teacher and later attended Gallaudet University. He worked at the Houston airport and collaborated with the Houston Police Department to ensure communication access for the Deaf community.


Workshop Highlights:


As part of the workshop, Sobota discussed police culture, including everyday encounters and obstacles. Through acknowledging the often negative encounters officers have with the public, Sobota illuminated the difficulties officers face when trying to ensure the safety and security of their communities. In order to enable a more empathetic approach to better communication access, he was trying to provide a deeper understanding of these challenges. By using this insight, police and Deaf communities may be able to foster a sense of mutual understanding and collaboration.


The hosts made the introduction of the Visor Identification Card. This card, when displayed by a driver during a traffic stop, contains the words "Deaf and Hard of Hearing." The purpose of this card is to alert police officers that the driver is Deaf and may require visual communication access. By incorporating this simple but effective tool, officers can quickly and easily identify individuals who may need alternative ways of communication, fostering a more understanding and inclusive interaction.


QA Session and Feedback:


The workshop concluded with a brief QA session. However, the attendees felt that the hosts focused too much on their personal stories and individual backgrounds, which limited the delivery of practical and valuable information. To address this concern, I approached Sobota after the workshop to introduce myself and express my interest in improving the training methods and collaborating to provide high-quality training to law enforcement agencies in Kansas.




Overall, the Police Interactions in the Deaf Community workshop provided insights into the experiences of hosts James Sobota and Emmanuel Eziashi as they worked to bridge the communication gap between the police and the Deaf community. The workshop addressed various topics, including the challenges faced by police officers and strategies for effective communication. While improvements in the delivery of the workshop were noted, there is potential for collaboration and enhancement of training methods to better serve law enforcement agencies and the Deaf community.


It was time for lunch. As Adriana and I sat down for lunch at The Southern, I couldn't help but feel excited about the conversation that awaited us. With my years of experience in advocating for the Deaf community and Adriana's fresh perspective, I knew that our discussion would be a fruitful one. It was evident from the start that both of us shared a deep passion for advocating for the rights of the Deaf community, especially the DeafBlind. As we shared our stories and motivations, I was impressed by Adriana's eagerness and determination to make a significant impact in our advocacy efforts. It was truly a privilege to connect with someone who understood the importance of fighting for equality and improving the quality of life for our community.


After our lunch, Adriana and I made our way back to the conference and eagerly attended the Opening Keynote Session titled "Reconnecting to Thrive Together" by Dr. Alesia Allen. Dr. Allen's vibrant and empowering personality shone through as she shared the strength she gained from her life experiences. Growing up in Ohio, she had a unique perspective on the world, with her mother's involvement in special education and her father's work as a machine operator turned pastor. Despite being mainstreamed, Dr. Allen always strived to look her best, as evident from the photos she showed us. She also touched upon her journey through post-education school to earn her Ph.D. degree, as well as her experiences with marriage and raising children. Her story about creating a graduation celebration for herself during the COVID-19 pandemic was particularly moving, and left me feeling inspired by her resilience and determination. Listening to her speak, I realized that there are so many untold stories out there that need to be heard.


We headed over to the next workshop.


This workshop shed light on Deaf individuals' educational experiences in both formal and informal learning environments. Dr. Betty emphasized that teachers and sign language interpreters play a critical role in supporting Deaf students. She highlighted the challenges faced by Deaf students in mainstreamed schools, particularly in their delayed acquisition of Deaf culture. According to Dr. Betty, interpreters serve as language models for Deaf students, and their positive impact is realized when they are helpful, encouraging, and confident. By providing hands-on support and utilizing facial expressions as part of American Sign Language (ASL), interpreters can create an inclusive and empowering environment. Conversely, if interpreters fail to embody these qualities, they may inadvertently oppress the students they aim to support. Dr. Betty further asserted that hearing interpreters adopt an audist perspective, as they prioritize the needs of the hearing community over those of the Deaf community.


To illustrate the challenges faced by Deaf individuals, Dr. Betty employed a theater scenario, showcasing the stark contrast between a hearing person's seamless enjoyment of a movie and the laborious process a Deaf person must endure to overcome various obstacles just to watch a film. This served as a poignant reminder that interpreters do not always consider the needs of the Deaf community as a necessary priority. Additionally, the workshop covered the concept of microaggressions, which encompassed microinsults (unconscious), microassaults (conscious), and microinvalidations (unconscious). Microaggressions perpetuated by interpreters were discussed in detail. These include oppressive behavior, where the interpreter refuses to interpret for students, leading the students to feel undervalued. Likewise, interpreters may dismiss or disregard students' questions or statements, conveying the message that their input lacks value. The issue of interpreters possessing questionable skills, despite their certificates, was also brought to light. This undermines the intelligence and importance of Deaf students who have the right to comprehensive understanding. Dr. Betty further highlighted instances where interpreters exerted control by mandating seating arrangements in classrooms, denying students the autonomy to choose their own seats. She argued that interpreters do not necessarily require students to sit at the front and that this imposed seating is a manifestation of the oppressive belief that "Hearings Know Best." Moreover, interpreters who adopt a strict and impersonal approach, failing to establish rapport with students, inadvertently communicate the message that relationships are unimportant. Another microaggression addressed was interpreters' refusal to repeat information, assuming Deaf students are not paying attention. The lack of attention by students can be attributed to the excessive distractions in a predominantly hearing environment. Dr. Betty suggested that interpreters should encourage students to ask the teacher for repetition rather than silent exclusion, as the hidden message conveyed is one of insignificance.


Dr. Betty presented the cumulative impact of these microaggressions as "Thousand Little Cuts" on Deaf students. Through a compelling visual representation, she depicted the harm caused by interpreters, including physical illness, self-harm, destructive behaviors, and even suicide. To conclude the workshop, Dr. Betty shared a thought-provoking image—a cycle that begins with recognizing the issues at hand, conducting research, realizing the impact, revealing the findings, rectifying the shortcomings, reforming the practices, and ultimately recognizing the need for ongoing improvement.


Due to time constraints, there was unfortunately no question and answer session. However, the workshop left me with a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by Deaf students and the critical role that interpreters play in their educational journeys. It underscored the importance of providing Deaf students with supportive, empowering, and inclusive learning environments.


My friends, Adriana, Jen, and I, decided to take an Uber ride to meet up with a group of friends at a brewery. We were excited to make new friends and catch up with familiar faces. The conversations were deep and introspective, and we had many laughs. It felt amazing to be surrounded by people who understood each other's journeys.


When we finished up at the brewery, the three of us decided to rent electric scooters to head back to our Airbnb rental property for the night. Adriana, Jen, and I used rental electric scooters to return. However, I quickly realized that I had lost my sense of direction and failed to properly navigate the map on my phone. We ended up heading in the opposite direction of where we were supposed to go. Once we knew we were heading the wrong way, we had to turn around. I then discovered that I had been using the wrong address on the map on my phone. To make matters a mess, a storm was fast approaching, and it began to rain. We decided to take refuge from the rain in a lovely restaurant that had a bar and BBQ grill. While waiting for the storm to pass, we opted to call for an Uber ride. And to our surprise, it was the same Uber driver who had taken us from the airport to our Airbnb rental! It truly is a small world.


Eventually, we made it back to our Airbnb property, and Jen, Adriana, and I were all able to get in our own beds. Despite the hiccups on our journey, I felt grateful to have spent time with my wonderful friends and to have had the opportunity to experience new adventures with them.

August 8, 2023


Jen, Adriana, and I departed from the Airbnb rental property and made our way to the nearby hotel where the NBDA conference was taking place. It was a pleasant 15-minute walk to reach our destination. Upon arrival, we took the opportunity to mingle with other Deaf individuals who were also attending the conference, engaging in friendly conversations and getting to know one another. While mingling, we eagerly awaited the start of the NASADHH's meeting.


Eventually, the meeting began with a series of introductions by the leaders of various state agencies responsible for overseeing the provision of services to their respective Deaf communities. It was enlightening to hear about their roles and responsibilities. Following the state agency introductions, the moment arrived when Star Grieser, CEO of the Registry of Interpreting for the Deaf (RID), was introduced. Excitement filled the room as all eyes turned towards her, eagerly anticipating her insights and guidance throughout the conference.


The following report highlights the significant organizational changes and transformations within the RID, as explained by Grieser. The report discusses various aspects of these changes, including DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), accessibility, belonging, organization effectiveness, external disciplinary actions, and organization relevance.


DEI, Accessibility, and Belonging:

Under the leadership of Grieser, the RID has made remarkable progress towards fostering DEI, accessibility, and a sense of belonging within the organization. Notably, the RID has become the first-ever Deaf-centric board in its history. This shift demonstrates a commitment to prioritizing the perspectives and needs of the Deaf community.


Organizational Transformation:

To ensure compliance with certification organization standards, the RID has undertaken a comprehensive organizational transformation. This transformation aimed to prevent undue influence from members imposing unreasonable citizen requirements for interpreting certification. By adhering to these standards, the RID has improved its overall effectiveness as an organization.


Disciplinary Actions and Self-Disclosure:

Starting from July 1, 2024, members of the RID will be required to disclose any adverse actions or criminal convictions they may have faced. This essential self-disclosure policy enhances external disciplinary actions and ensures transparency and accountability within the organization. The RID also seeks to establish reciprocity agreements with state agencies to oversee interpreters and interpreter agencies, reinforcing the credibility of certification processes.


Digital Badges and Certifications:

Implementing digital badges has been a significant step towards providing secure and immediate verification of certification. These badges serve as a reliable means of validating interpreters' credentials. It is important to note that certifications can be revoked at any time if unethical conduct or non-compliance is detected.


Organizational Relevance and Future Plans:

Looking ahead, the RID aims to update their white papers, particularly the Professional Practice Papers, to stay relevant in the field. Additionally, efforts are being made to improve the standards for the development and maintenance of certification specific to legal interpreting. These initiatives highlight the organization's commitment to continuous improvement and keeping pace with evolving industry needs.


Forum Questions and the Growth of Interpreters:

During the discussion, many forum questions centered on the growth of interpreters, particularly focusing on the pipeline for Deaf, Black, and BIPOC interpreters. Recognizing the importance of a diverse interpreter community, the RID is actively addressing these concerns and striving for inclusivity across all aspects of its operations.


The organizational changes implemented within the RID under the leadership of Grieser have been significant and have positively influenced the organization's DEI efforts, accessibility initiatives, and sense of belonging. Compliance with certification organization standards, enhanced disciplinary actions, implementation of digital badges, and plans for future relevance demonstrate the RID's commitment to improvement and ensuring the highest standards within the interpreting profession.


Once NASADHH had wrapped up their discussion with Grieser, the three of us decided to head over to Eugene's Hot Chicken for lunch. While we were there, we were delighted to see a number of other Deaf individuals who were also attending the conference. Their presence made it feel like a Deaf world, which was really something special. It was inspiring to be surrounded by so many like-minded individuals who shared our passion for advocating for Deaf rights and fostering Deaf culture.


After we finished our meal, we made our way back to the NASADHH meeting. Unfortunately, we were slightly late, and had missed the beginning of the panel discussion. The theme of this panel discussion was about being more inclusive of the diverse identities within the Deaf community. It focused on the importance of recognizing and addressing the unique needs and experiences of groups such as the Black Deaf, Brown Deaf, Deaf Asians, Deaf LGBTs, and others. Led by Annie Urasky, the discussion featured representatives from various organizations including Ben Hollingsworth from the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR), Howard Rosenblum from the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), Tawny Holmes-Hilbok from the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD), and Xgmail Campos-Espinosa from the National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA).


During the panel discussion, a few members of the NASADHH had some questions for the panelists, while there were fewer questions from visitors in the audience. However, regardless of the number of questions, it was clear that the panelists were actively engaged in an open and honest conversation. Through their discussion, it became even more evident that achieving true inclusivity within the Deaf community would require deliberate and focused efforts. These efforts would involve amplifying the voices of marginalized groups and addressing their specific challenges.


The panel delved into various ways to ensure representation, promote equal opportunities, and create safe spaces for individuals from all backgrounds within the Deaf community. The panelists shared personal stories, backed by research, and put forward strategies to foster a more inclusive environment that embraces and celebrates diversity. Their insights highlighted the importance of recognizing and valuing the distinct experiences of different individuals within the community.


The panel discussion served as a platform for meaningful dialogue and learning. It was a reminder that inclusivity is not a passive process but an active commitment that requires the participation of everyone involved. By engaging in conversations like these, addressing concerns, and implementing practical solutions, the Deaf community can move closer to creating a more inclusive society for all its members.


Attending this panel discussion reminded us of the immense work that lies ahead in advocating for the rights and well-being of all Deaf individuals. It reaffirmed the importance of acknowledging and including the voices of the Black Deaf, Brown Deaf, Deaf Asians, Deaf LGBTs, and other marginalized groups within the broader Deaf advocacy efforts. Leaving the meeting, we felt empowered to actively contribute to the ongoing dialogue and work towards a more inclusive and equitable future for the entire Deaf community.


After the NASADDH meeting shifted their focus to their own state agencies' priorities, we decided to make our way out. Our next stop was Vulcan Park, where we had the opportunity to mingle with other Deaf individuals attending the conference. To get there, we hopped on the yellow buses provided by the Alabama School for the Deaf. It was a chance to catch up with familiar faces and meet new people, forging new connections. The highlight of our visit to Vulcan Park was witnessing a stunning sunset over Alabama, a moment that left us in awe.


Once we were ready to head back, we boarded one of the yellow buses again to return to the hotel. We then decided to embark on a twenty-minute walk, covering several blocks, to reach a nearby sushi restaurant. It was a delightful dinner experience, enjoying the flavors and ambiance of the restaurant. Three of us got to know each other much more and had some laughs. After dinner, we strolled back to our Airbnb rental, which was about a forty-minute walk away. It was a pleasant evening walk, allowing us to take in the beautiful surroundings before settling in for the night.


As we retired to our rental place, we reflected on the events of the day and looked forward to what the second day of the conference had in store for us. The experiences and connections made during our time at Vulcan Park and the dinner outing added to the excitement and anticipation. We are eager to continue engaging in the conference and making the most of our time in this vibrant setting.


August 7, 2023


The journey from Kansas to Alabama with Adriana Gonzalez and Jen Mason was exhilarating. We had planned everything out, met at the airport in Kansas City, and set out on our adventure to the National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA) conference. However, our plans were inevitably impacted by flight delays. As we waited for our planes to arrive, we took the opportunity to get to know each other a little better. We shared our aspirations and goals, talked about life, and had some laughs. This delay turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it brought us closer together as a team.


Eventually, our flights were ready, and we set off for Alabama with a layover in Dallas, feeling refreshed and energized. Along the way, we couldn't help but reflect on the incredible journey we had embarked on. We discussed the challenges that lay ahead and how we would tackle them. Our shared experiences navigating the complex world of Deaf culture gave us the confidence to stay focused and committed.


When we finally arrived in Birmingham, Alabama, we made our way to the Airbnb rental property we had booked. It was a cozy space that immediately made us feel at home. We settled in, appreciating the comfort and privacy it provided. We knew this would be our sanctuary during the NBDA conference, a place where we could recharge and reflect on the events of each day. We are eager to see what the conference had in store for us.



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