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Documentary on American Sign Language garners award

Three women involved in the making of Signing On were honored at a rally for the deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing community at the Minnesota Capitol on March 2.

The film features Anita Buel, who is an adjunct faculty member in the American Sign Language department at St. Kate’s, as she struggles to find her way through the hearing-dominated world of health care, along with other members of the deaf community.

Created by Director Barbara Allen and Executive Producer Nancy Meyers, the film is the nation’s first documentary about deaf women undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Allen is a professor of political science and director of Women and Gender Studies at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. Executive Producer Nancy Meyers is a consultant to the deaf community in health education and leadership development.

Each of these women were honored for their work with the film during a lobby day for the deaf community at the Capitol on Wednesday, as the Commission of Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans presented them with the Advocacy Through the Arts Award.

Marian Hausladen, who recently retired from teaching American Sign Language in public schools, announced the award to a crowd in the Capitol Rotunda. She said the film was very moving, garnering more than 700 people for its debut screening at St. Catherine University in February.

“It’s about breast cancer survivors — their stories, their struggles, the beauty of American Sign Language and how it’s so different from English,” said Hausladen. She pointed out that though terms like “cancer” exist in ASL, the meaning is not immediately clear, and that doctors need to do more to help ASL patients to understand. “We’re really hoping this video will help improve the communications between the health care workers and the deaf community,” she said.

Buel was at the Capitol on Wednesday to accept the award. She thanked the community for their support, as well as St. Catherine University for hosting the first screening.

“Any person with a disability and any family with a person with a disability can learn from this video,” said Buel. “This movie will help take down the barriers.”

Signing On is the first film for director Barbara Allen and Screen Porch Films.

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March 3, 2011 by Melissa Kaelin

See also: Faculty, Liberal Arts