Louisiana Deaf meet over coffee
April 7, 2014
Consider the saying, “What’s the one thing standing between Deaf people and being normal? Hearing people.” This implies that for Deaf people to live normal lives, Hearing people need to get out of the way. For the Deaf, equal treatment is simply normal treatment.
Baton Rouge has made strides in Deaf equality over the years. One example is the Louisiana School for the Deaf and Visually Impaired on Brightside Drive, where Deaf students from around the state come to learn.
Along with the LSDVI, Louisiana has taken up the community organization of Deaf Chat Coffee. For nearly a decade, DCC has been assisting Deaf Americans in forming social communities. The organization serves as a hub for Deaf people to start their own groups in coffee shops around the country.
“Hearing people can join us and can benefit from us by learning our way of life, Deaf Culture and our language – ASL [American Sign Language],” said Baton Rouge DCC host Walker Estes. “In the same time, we can learn something from them as well. It was done in an open family-like environment.”
With locations in eight different Louisiana cities, DCC brings Deaf people the opportunity to meet and mingle. There are no criteria for attending the monthly meetings. Attendants don’t even have to be Deaf. Hearing people and children of Deaf adults (CODA) are allowed to join in on the conversation.
At the meetings, people talk about any and all topics, including politics, music, art and the Deaf Community itself. Estes started the Baton Rouge DCC group nearly 10 years ago. He said he has seen the group grow over the years, some nights having up to 25 members.
“Our mission is to promote the social and recreational opportunities among the Deaf Community in an open family-like environment where everyone will feel welcome and be a part of the Deaf Community,” Estes said.
Estes and his group members urge people, both Deaf and Hearing, to meet on the first Friday of each month at the CC’s Coffee House on Jefferson Highway at 7 p.m. Last weekend’s meeting coincided with Deaf History Month, which runs from March 13 to April 15. It is a time dedicated to commemorating events in Deaf history. Today marks the 150th anniversary of Gallaudet University, the country’s first Deaf university.
Baton Rouge’s DCC group is made up of mostly older citizens, including retirees and some educators. Despite this age trend, the group’s members believe the organization aids in the spread of Deaf education to both Hearing and Deaf youth.
“Young people are a part of our Deaf Community and can learn or get ‘free’ advice from the elders or others,” Estes said. A lot of times they come here with questions or seeking advice about everyday occurrences in their lives. Sign language students are a plus for us. They can assimilate into our group without feeling isolated or rejection.”
For more information, visit http://happy.deafcoffee.com.