Deaf Culture Celebrated at State House Bookmark and Share

September 24, 2009

Augusta- Leaders and advocates from Maine’s Deaf community gathered at the State House today for a celebration of Deaf culture and an award ceremony honoring individuals who have contributed to Deaf culture in Maine. Governor John Baldacci issued a proclamation earlier this month designating the week of September 20-26 as Deaf Culture Week.

The ceremony was sponsored by the Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened and seven awards were presented this year to the following recipients:

Clifton F. Rodgers Award – A Lifetime Achievement Award

Jan DeVinney – Former Director of the Division of Deafness, long time advocate for the inclusion of individuals who are hard of hearing and late deafened in the mission of Department of Labor’s Division for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened. She is currently the Deaf Services/Access Coordinator at Maine Medical Center.

Outstanding Advocate for the Needs of the Deaf Community Award

Lutheran Social Services of New England (LSS) – In 2005, LSS started a Deaf Services program in Maine providing residential supports to individuals who are Deaf with developmental disabilities. This program employs over 50 staff members who are Deaf or hard of hearing. In 2008, LSS re-established “Camp Sign-A-Watha”, the only residential camp for individuals who are Deaf with developmental disabilities.

Special Commendation Awards

Michael Welch – Mike is an employee of the State’s Office of Information Technology. He undertook the challenge to install videophones for all state employees who are Deaf, state service providers, and the installation of video phones in the 11 Career Centers around the state. Mike provided the technical bridge as well as the practical needs of Maine's Deaf community to have equitable access to communication within state government.

Judy Shepherd-Kegl – As a professor of linguistics at USM, Judy works tirelessly to educate others both formally and informally. She spends a great deal of time, for which she is not compensated, helping others grow in their respect for Deaf persons, their language and community. In addition, she is a life-long learner who humbly seeks to learn more from the Deaf community.

Promoting ASL, Deaf Culture and Deaf People Award

USM – ASL Club – The students who belong to the club are the driving force behind the Maine Deaf Film Festival held at USM annually. This week-end festival celebrates films in ASL; written, directed, and produced by film makers who are Deaf.

Outstanding Citizenship Award

Melinda Smith-Meyers - Melinda has spent a lifetime advocating for Deaf adults, children, children of Deaf adults (CODA) and parents working with Child Development Services, Department of Health & Human Services and Community Counseling Center. She has served on several boards and committees such as the Newborn Hearing Screening. She volunteers her time to educate families and the community about American Sign Language, parent and child development, parent and child relations and Deaf culture.

Citizenship Youth Award

Graham M. Chase – Graham is a senior at Hampden Academy who is hard of hearing. He is a leader in the Youth Leaders' Club, a good student, a fine musician, and a good friend to many of the other youth in our Youth Leaders' Club. Graham’s leadership was particularly evident in his participation in this past year’s “Mission Transition” project sponsored by the Department of Labor supporting students prepare for life after high school.

The keynote was Jonathan Connick, Vice-Chair of the Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened.