You can download the July 30, 2013 episode, stream it here or read the transcript down below (click on read more).
Health on Earth, CKUT 90.3 FM, July 30th, 2013
"Increasing Deaf Awareness Through Theatre" transcript (by Aselin W.)
Dan: Hello, good evening. My name is Dan. You're listening to Health on Earth. This evening we will be listening to an interview by Annie and Stephane from CKUT's Avalanche, which focuses specifically on disabilities and rights issues. They sat down with Jack, from Seeing Voices. Seeing Voices is a Montreal NGO that works with the hearing impaired to promote hearing impaired issues by mixing American Sign Language with theatre with the goal to present adapted plays of popular stories that involves not only Deaf people, but hearing actors and audiences too. Currently it is 8:33 pm, you are listening to Health on Earth on CKUT, 90.3 FM.
Annie: Hi thank you so much for joining us today, we're really excited to have you, Lorraine is really excited to have you too. We have so many questions prepared for you and Seeing Voices, and just to start off, Jack, can you tell us more about yourself and what you do as a living?
Jack: My name is Jack Volpe, I'm Deaf. I'm 28 years old, and I like long walks on the beach. Haha, I'm kidding. I have two jobs. One as a préposé, sort of like a nurse's assistant, but at a special school, the Mackay Rehabilitation Centre for students with disabilities. The second job I work as an ASL teacher. ASL means American Sign Language.
Annie: Were you born with a hearing impairment or was it something that occurred much more later on?
Jack: I was born Deaf.
Annie: Ok, now growing up as a kid, what were some of the challenges going to school, seeing a doctor or performing day to day activities? How did you overcome them?
Jack: In elementary school, I went to the MOSD, which means the Montreal Oral School of the Deaf, and that's where I learned how to speak, read and write. The deaf students, they go to classes in a regular school with the MOSD teachers. And sometimes we would go to integration classes like Physical Education, Math or Social Science. As for overcoming challenges, for example, talking to a doctor, what I would do when I was younger, my mom would accompany me to the doctor and she would tell me what the doctor says. But now I'm grown up so my mom would say, “You're a big boy you can do this by yourself!” So I have to be an independent guy. Basically if the doctor is talking too fast, I will ask him, “Can you please slow down? Can you speak clearly?” And he will do so.For example, when I go to the dentist, obviously the dentist will have a mask that covers their mouth. I would give him tips. For example if he needs me to close my mouth, he would use his hands [gestures] to close my mouth, or to open my mouth. Also, going to a fast food restaurant, like a drive in, obviously when you guys go to a fast food drive-in, you guys have to talk to a speaker. I would just basically drive by the speakers and go to the window. And what I would do is I would write down on a piece of paper or I would text, “I would like to have a big mac, medium fries, and a diet coke.” And I would give it to the cashier and she would read it and she would give me the meal, she would write down the price, then I pay the price and I leave with a happy face, haha.
Annie: That's wonderful.
Stephane: Ok hi it's Stephane from the Avalanche. I just want to ask Jack a question. Referring to the last question about people with a hearing impairment, what is the way someone should talk to someone who is hearing impaired?
Jack: You mean, as a Deaf person talking to a hearing person, what are the tips?
Jack: So basically, let's say if a hearing person were to talk to me, I would have to talk to them face to face, and not on their profile because I need to read their lips. There are different kinds of people in the Deaf community, some don't read lips, sometimes they sign, sometimes they just feel the hands. Like for example, a Deaf-blind person, they can't see but they can feel the hands. For me, to communicate with a hearing person, I need to be face to face to the person with a lot of light.
Stephane: Yeah there isn't a lot of light in here, because it gets hot in here so we just had to turn it down. Haha. Just a second question, it's about using “hearing impaired” and “Deaf”. Like i know people who are visually impaired like to be called visually impaired rather than blind. What's your opinion about using “Deaf” or “hearing impaired”?
Jack: “Hearing impaired” is a term that the Deaf community feels offensive because it's like a way of saying it's “impossible for you”. Impaired is kind of like saying “impossible”, that's why we see “IM” in “impaired” and “IM” in “impossible”.
Stephane: Ok so you prefer to be called Deaf! Thank you.
Jack: Yeah, it can be Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
Annie: Ok, so what's it like searching for jobs? Did you face any sort of difficulties?
Jack: Tough! But I was lucky enough to work at places where my sister was working. But jobs in general are tough because you have to convince the employers that you are capable of completing the job description.
Annie: Do you enjoy music and how do you enjoy music?
Jack: For me it's kind of hard to explain, I like watching music videos, but I prefer dance over music, because dance is more visual. Music, I try to hear the beats but I can't hear the lyrics so I can't understand the lyrics, but I can follow the beat. I don't really have a favourite music group, but I enjoy the beats. I rely on the vibrations.
Annie: Perfect! My next question is, do you ever find it unfair that you cannot hear? And what were some valuable lessons that you learned during the process of being Deaf?
Jack: When I was younger, yes. I thought it was unfair because I saw people that were different from me, so I wanted to be like them. But as I grew up, I said, you know what? Everyone is different. When I was younger I didn't think I was able to do anything, but as I grew up I started to get used to the fact that I have a hearing loss. And I know that even if you are Deaf, you are ready to do anything but hear. So that's pretty simple for me, haha. The valuable lesson that I learned as I grew up is to embrace who you are. To be proud of the things you do in life, and just trust yourself. It's all about self-confidence. Believing in yourself that you can do anything. I have this motto you see, it's called, “When there is a will, there is a way.”
Annie: That's wonderful. So how did you first get involved with Seeing Voices?
Jack: Well, Aselin brought me on board with her and Josie. Aselin is sitting in front of me and interpreting for me. Aselin and Josie used to be my former students in my ASL class. They performed a play called, “Little Red Riding Hood” on the last class, and they were using signs. And the Little Red Riding Hood is Deaf. So they found a way to adapt the story from the original, and they made a skit out of that in class. I thought that was really remarkable, really outstanding. So from there Aselin and Josie thought of something to make it little even better, and they're making it even more official, so they founded the company Seeing Voices. They wanted me on board, so I started writing scripts. And um, they liked the script so we're a team now.
Anne: That's great. And as the director of Seeing Voices and a co-ordinator at a camp for children with disabilities, what is the motivation behind your work? What other people do you interact with on a daily basis?
Jack: As the director of Seeing Voices...Because in the past I graduated from Concordia University, majoring in film production. From way back I loved writing stories, watching movies, I love making movies, so that brought me the passion to being creative and write a story from that. So, to become the director of Seeing Voices is something that I have always liked to. I worked hard on the script and fair enough, Aselin and Josie liked the script. It's good training for me so I kind of asked them to be the director of this play that I wrote. And they said “yeah, yeah go for it.” So I'm really excited. It's gonna be the first time that I'm directing the play. I'm a little nervous about that, but it's still cool though.
Annie: I'm sure you'll be great, haha. And what is the most rewarding moment during the process of directing and producing?
Jack: I learned to have the confidence to write a script that you came up with an idea of. Like for example, you write a script then you present yourself in front of the class and there are some lines that you might forget, then you just try to improvise a little bit. From there, that's where I got my creative approach. That's where I thought to myself, I can try to, you know, re-adapt the script a little bit, re-adapt my situation, re-adapt the things from the lines, from the script, and make it more lively in front of the people, to make people laugh. That's what I like to do, to make people laugh.
Stephane: I just want to say something, it's Stephane. I just want to talk about the disability festival, they had a film about Deaf performers and all that. I went there and I saw that film. It was a really cool experience because I felt that the person didn't understand anybody, and that seeing all these people sign languaging to each other, it was a real good experience seeing other people do that. I never had that experience to feel like the underdog or something like that. That other person can understand what other people are saying you know? It was a fun experience to have that.
Annie: That’s very interesting, actually.
Stephane: What do you think if the radio can get more accessible, like if there is interpretation from radio? What ideas do you think radio stations can do?
Jack: Obviously, a deaf person cannot hear. So it would be nice to have a radio that has lips. I’m joking! I don’t know if you have already gone to New York City, in Times Square they have those banners...
Stephane: Oh yeah I know, I know.
Jack: Or if you watch CNN, the programme, on the bottom there is information that you want to know. That would be useful for the Deaf to know what’s on the radio being broadcasted. Like pre-information, that would be really useful.
Stephane: Actually I told you guys so many times, my big goal is to have the Avalanche with interpretation on the internet videotaped, so people who are Deaf can watch it on the internet. It’s my goal. I’m getting pretty close to it, so it’s something I’m working on. So you guys can get my program. A disability program should be accessible to all disabilities.
Jack: I think that really is a fantastic idea, what you’re doing. I really like the idea of putting a program where everybody can feel fit-in and be more involved. No matter if you have a disability or people who don’t have a disability, they’re able to learn something from us. So I think you’re doing a fantastic job at that. I applaud you on that.
Stephane: Thank you.
Annie: Do you have any final thoughts for our audience? Any advice you want to give the younger generation?
Jack: It doesn’t matter if they’re Deaf or hearing, just enjoy yourself. Have a lot of confidence, believe in yourself. Anything is possible. When there is a will there is always a way. And from Aselin has been telling me, YOLO. You only live once. As you know, Seeing Voices is doing a production in the Fall. We already have our actors from the auditions. We’ll be ready to do rehearsals, costumes, makeup, and set productions. Lighting, sound, everything. And we will be doing our productions somewhere in the fall, somewhere in November. If you want to find out more about us, or join us, you are always welcome! You can google us up, Seeing Voices Montreal. So if you guys want to learn ASL, or want to be a part of it, you’re always welcome, contact us.
Annie: Thank you so much for joining us today, you were wonderful.
Jack: Thank you for having us.
Annie: You were absolutely wonderful.
Stephane: Yes, guys please come back!
Annie: Yes, please come back, haha! Thank you!
Dan: Well that’s all for our show. If you’re interested in getting involved with Seeing Voices, you can find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SeeingVoices or email them at Seeing.Voices.Montreal@gmail.com Have a good night guys!