307-780-6476 (Wendy) or 307-258-8681 (Mashell) wendy@wyhandsandvoices.org

HANDS AND VOICES STORY

In the early 1990s the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., was preparing an exhibit called Silent America. It was intended to raise positive awareness of the Deaf Community, highlighting cultural and linguistic (ASL) aspects of the Deaf experience. Meanwhile, a number of people who were deaf or hard of hearing, but who were not living with those aspects of the Deaf experience, had a problem with the exhibit. From their perspective, it did not represent who they were-specifically, listening/oral communicators.

They resented what they perceived to be the exclusionary nature of Silent America’s point of view. Controversy rolled across the land. Both camps fired off angry letters towards each other, and the Smithsonian exhibit planners. In the end, the Smithsonian scrapped the whole project. Regardless of what side any one was on, we all lost that battle.

As individuals who are in so many ways connected to each other through deafness or hearing loss professionally, parentally, or otherwise we’d had an opportunity to rally around the things that unite us and really show the whole world, but instead we burned ourselves out in the same old heated arguments over communication methodology. Those events led to the establishment of Hands & Voices. We have been an established chapter of this national organization since September of 2006.