COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Working its way through the Ohio statehouse right now is a bill that would recognize a month for an, at times, marginalized minority.
Senator Bill Beagle’s bill would recognize March 13 through mid-April as Ohio Deaf History Month.
Ohio’s deaf history is a long and rich, a key piece of which is the Ohio School for the Deaf in Columbus, which was opened in 1829.
Right now 17-year-old Hannah Carter is a senior, “I plan on going to Gallaudet University in the Fall,” Hannah signed. Through an American Sign Language interpreter she conveys that she plans to study psychology, inspired to help kids in the deaf community dealing with mental illness, “Right now there are not a lot of deaf people working in that field.” She is just one of about 250 students at the school.
Educator Charisse Heine is a deaf teacher at the school. According to Heine recognizing a month for Ohio Deaf History is a long time coming, the school was the fifth one established in the country, “There was a lot of obstacles they had to overcome,” Heine signed through an interpreter.
In its long history the school produced graduates like Ed Dundon and William “Dummy” Hoy, some of the first deaf pro-baseball players, “He is often the person given credit for creating a lot of the hand signals they use in baseball,” Heine communicated.
While the month would shine a light on the community Heine hopes it leads to more opportunities for the deaf and hard of hearing, from education to employment, “We are equals, even though we use a different language,” Heine signed.
ASL is a language not used by the majority right now, but is growing, something students like Hannah believe will lead to more and better communication, “We see ASL being valued as a beautiful language and that’s something we really appreciate,” Hannah signed.
Senate bill 27 was introduced by Senator Bill Beagle. It’s already been approved by the Ohio senate and now moves to the House floor. If it passes there, it will go to the Governor’s desk to become law.