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NECC Deaf Community Helps Deaf Fire Victims

Submitted by on September 26, 2018 – 3:20 pm

(L to R) PAX McCarthy, professor UNH, councilwoman Maria Delacruz, NECC Professor Diana Mele, Frost School teacher Daniela Ioannides, and Rosa Santana, a student in the NECC Deaf Studies Interpreting Certificate Program.

In the immediate aftermath of the Lawrence, Andover, North Andover gas explosions on Thursday, Sept. 13, members of the Northern Essex Community College Deaf Studies program assisted in interpreting for Deaf families affected by the fires.

Diana Mele, an NECC professor in the Deaf Studies Interpreter Training Program along with several Deaf colleagues, students, and Lawrence City Councilwoman Maria De la cruz, assisted in the coordination with the Red Cross to avail ASL Interpreting and support to Deaf evacuees.

When Mele learned that many Deaf evacuees did not have access to communication, she contacted the Red Cross and Sandra Katz of the Bilingual Center at the Lawrence Partham Evacuation site to assess the situation.

“I immediately went on-site to assist with ASL interpreting as well as sent an email to my interpreting students and other Deaf advocates inviting them to also volunteer,” she said. “We also contacted the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing to request additional Interpreting resources as there were multiple evacuation sites needing communication assistance and access. The response of students and advocates was overwhelming and reflected the humanitarian spirit of all.”

Unfortunately, many Deaf persons were not evacuated despite living in the area designated as mandatory evacuation sites due to communication barriers, she said.  Since then, Mele has been working with Katz and the Deaf Inc. Independent Living Program in Lawrence to insure access for persons who are Deaf to the Recovery Center resources. As a follow-up, she hopes to encourage continued conversations with all Deaf Community advocates and Councilwoman Maria De La Cruz to insure communication access plans are in place in the event of future emergencies such as this.

Northern Essex offers associate degrees in deaf studies and interpreting transfer and a and a certificate in sign language interpreter. Individuals can train for a career to provide services to the Deaf /Hard of Hearing /DeafBlind communitites.