Monday, December 1, 2008

Deaf Faces of the American Economy

Today, I got the CNN Breaking News announcement in my inbox. It’s official. The recession is here. Like many other Americans, I wasn’t surprised because in a way we had already been operating under a self-imposed recession for a while now. Making it official was just a matter of formality to me and to millions of other Americans who are feeling the pinch, losing jobs, dealing with foreclosures.

I’m studying towards a Government major, not an Economy major. But I do recognize that politics and economy are inextricably linked together, as with the wellbeing of our nation. I’d like to write this entry to examine upon the deaf faces of American economy.

I’m not talking about the professors, the pundits, the professionals – though the deaf community is proud of quite a few accomplished and respected individuals in economy and business. I’m talking about the real faces, the ordinary American citizens and families, people in America who just happened to be deaf. And the economy is affecting us all.

A grassroots deaf organization, Deaf Seniors of America, suffered a major financial loss when their bank holding the organization’s money collapsed. Silver State Bank collapsed in early September and Deaf Seniors of America lost more than $170,000 out of more than $270,000 deposited in the bank. The upcoming convention will go ahead as planned but profits will not be made and a deaf community center that was planned to be built with the profits will not come into reality. The Nevada bank was the 11th bank to fail in 2008.

“The money belongs to the deaf community, in our minds. It doesn’t belong to us,” Cecilia Rosen, co-chairwoman of the local convention planning committee, said through a sign language interpreter.

When Bill Moran, the committee’s co-chairman, heard the news about the bank, he couldn’t sleep that night.

When the Vardon family found out they had won an Extreme Home Makeover, they were overjoyed. The deaf parents, Larry and Judy Vardon have two sons and one of them is blind and autistic. With Ty Pennington and Marlee Matlin starring in the episode, it was a happy moment as the hearing son Stefan received scholarship from the Starkey Hearing Foundation and the house was renovated magnificently to ensure safety for the blind and autistic son Lance. Flash forward four years later, the Vardon family is one of the many families in America struggling with deep debts and they are now losing their beautiful home.

The Vardon family isn’t the first “Extreme Home Makeover” recipients to face foreclosures; other families on the show are also facing foreclosures in today’s mortgage crisis.

Small businesses are still in the market, for the deaf people at least. The above article refers to Jason and John Yeh, a father-son team who established the Viable video communications company, which has been extremely successful with two products released so far (VPAD and VPAD+) and a burgeoning company. They’re not the only deaf people in the business world. Deaf businesses have long persevered through adversity to succeed. One needs to only go to the local Deaf Expo to get a taste of how many deaf small businesses there are. However, the question remains – how many of the small businesses that are pride and joy, golden nuggets of the deaf community, will survive through the recession?

So is Viable ... viable? "I want them to succeed," says T. Alan Hurwitz, president of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, N.Y. But, given the competition, "it will be a challenge." Still, Viable's staff face challenges every day. And as far as the Yehs are concerned, their rivals are impaired by hearing.

In times of economical hardship, we must remember that the deaf world is both small and large and we’re a proud community. With the Thanksgiving over and the holidays nearing, it might be a modest and humble time for many. However, the season is also a giving season and I want all of you to keep in mind that generosity counts far more this year. Reach out, do good, and support each other through the recession.

The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt


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