Expo showcases latest technology for deaf community
By: Allison Toepperwein
The country's largest touring convention for the deaf stopped in Austin at the Palmer Events Center on Saturday. Deaf Nation showcased cutting-edge technology that closes the gap between the deaf community and a hearing world.
The Austin deaf community is especially sensitive right now. A month ago, Miss Deaf Texas, Tara McAvoy, was hit by a train in South Austin. Police believe she may have been text messaging someone when she was killed. Tara dealt with the same obstacles the deaf community deals with every day. Her mother, Sarah McAvoy, said she needed to attend the convention to keep her daughter’s message alive.
The Deaf Nation Expo travels around the United States bringing the deaf community technology and information together under one roof.
"[It’s] where families and communities and deaf people could come together and also deaf children could come together and see what technology was available, what their community was and develop a bridge between the community and the changes that were occurring in the culture and community because of the technology," Deaf Nation CEO Joel Barish signed.
About 3,000 Texans came to the daylong expo at the Palmer Events Center Saturday.
"They get to come and interact with people that actually know their language. I mean there are some interpreters, but for the most part, people are communicating in sign language, which is their language. Learning about products that are useful to them, so this is really an awesome thing for them," UT sign language student Jordan Owens said.
The Blackberry is really useful for the deaf because they can connect to the entire world at the touch of a button. Sprint also designed a custom plan for the deaf and hard of hearing since they don't need a voice plan on a phone, Customer Relations Manager Paul Rutowski said.
"[I like] the fact that you can call and use the Sprint Relay service online with a wireless device. I would then be able to call the police or have someone come help and support me if I was in a situation," attendee Donnie Wood signed.
Johanna Valenta, the newly crowned Miss Deaf Texas, believes these wireless communication devices are important for the Deaf community. She said Tara wouldn't want her accident to deter the advances made for the deaf.
"I'm happy to have seen the experiences that she went through and my hope is to keep her presence alive," Valenta signed.
Sarah McAvoy said keeping that presence alive inspires her to keep going every day.
"Because I feel that with Tara, the two of us when she was growing up, we would always go places together. And I can't just stay at home and sit there. I need to keep going and keep doing. Of course I'm still grieving. But, I need to keep busy, even though she's not physically here, keep doing the things we have always done," McAvoy said.
The tour also plans stops in Atlanta, Seattle, Chicago and Denver.