Expo hall seven buzzed with various vendors, performers and all-around excitement on Saturday afternoon, as members of the deaf community gathered to celebrate the first Deaf Expo at the Fairplex.
Deaf United, an organization dedicated to celebrating the culture and pride of the deaf community, hosted the event.
Over 20 vendors and corporations that serve the deaf community were in attendance, including Language People.
The company provides interpretation and translation services for over 150 languages, including American Sign Language.
Lisa Wranch, CEO of Language People, is not deaf but said that events like this help bring awareness and equal opportunities to marginalized groups.
“There is an entire community that isn’t being represented, and companies are starting to see that,” Wranch said.
“When they take their needs into consideration, they’re opening up and gaining a new group of consumers.”
Language People has been active for 29 years, providing necessary language mediation to ensure that companies understand the deaf community has rights to their services under Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
“For every one deaf person there are three or four hearing people who love them that are going to vote, and act based on how members of the deaf community are treated,” Wranch said.
Language People was the first organization to successfully compile a visual first aid manual for people with hearing impairments, so they would have the same safety knowledge as people without hearing impairments.
As companies have expanded worldwide, the need for multilingual workers has risen exponentially.
Interpreters fluent in ASL, like Dallas Stewart, work for organizations such as Language People.
They make instructional videos in ASL and mediate between companies and the deaf community.
“My mom, sister, and grandma are all deaf, so I understand the importance of all this on a personal level,” Stewart said.
Stewart directed people in ASL and English to booths selling movies in ASL, ASL inspired T-shirts and information on Deaf Drag, which is a very popular form of entertainment featuring drag queens fluent in ASL.
“Events like these are great because you get to be around people like you and buy cool merchandise that represents your community that you can’t find anywhere else,” Stewart said.
Important aspects of planning for the future are often overlooked in the deaf community, Karen Patel, Financial Strategist for Tax and Financial Group, said.
Tax and Financial Group works with ASL interpreters to serve the deaf community.
“A lot of the time it’s not about how much income comes in, but how that income goes out,” Patel said.
“Where to invest, how much to save, how to file taxes, these are all things that are difficult to do if you speak the language, but imagine if you didn’t.”
Other booths, like the Romans Road for the Deaf, are on a spiritual mission, hoping to help spread religious interest among the deaf community.
Bryan Palumbo, a member of the Evangelist Team for Grace Baptist Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, and author of “Romans Road for the Deaf,” was born deaf, and explained the importance of events like this in spreading their religious message.
“Step by step it has been really successful, and through this we can make sure that the truth of Jesus Christ can be spread throughout the world,” Palumbo said.
The sponsors of the Deaf Expo said they hope they will be back next year and continue to spread awareness of a growing and important community.
Marisa Saldaña can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.