OREM — About 1,000 hearing-impaired people at an international symposium at Utah Valley State College were encouraged to rise up out of oppression and create change.

Kicking off the conference, Paddy Ladd, keynote speaker and an expert on the deaf, addressed the crowd Thursday.

"We need more deaf people in leadership positions and in positions of power in order to be making some of those crucial decisions" that affect the deaf community, Ladd said through an interpreter.

He is author of "Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood" and has a doctorate degree from Gallaudet University. Located in Washington, D.C., the school offers liberal education and career development for deaf and hard-of-hearing undergraduate students.

While many hearing-impaired persons may be accustomed to being the minority in a group, at this conference they are the majority. Conference leaders of "Deaf Studies Today!" provided American Sign Language interpreters who spoke into a microphone for hearing persons during the morning keynote address.

Ladd is from England and knows British Sign Language quite well but only knows "broken ASL." His interpreter's plane was grounded and she ended up stranded in another city so a team of interpreters, including a UVSC adjunct instructor, pinch hit for his speech.

In the Sorensen Student Center ballroom, Ladd signed his ASL from the stage. One interpreter watched Ladd and signed a more defined ASL to another interpreter who was standing on the other side of the stage. Meanwhile, an interpreter on the front row watched the interpreter on stage and spoke into the microphone.

The presenters were worried about how well they were communicating, but conference participants gave them a thumbs up and wiggled their fingers in the air, which is the deaf community's way of clapping.

UVSC has 50 to 60 deaf students. About a dozen ASL interpreters serve these students during their classes, said Bryan Eldredge. He is chairman of "Deaf Studies Today!" and UVSC professor of ASL and deaf studies.

"We're trying to create a place where deaf people can really call home," Eldredge said.

UVSC has an English and a math class, on demand, taught in ASL, he said. "So the students don't need an interpreter. They just come straight through," Eldredge said. The class usually has six to 12 students.

Eldredge said his dream is to have deaf students be able to come to UVSC and make it through their associate's degree without ever having to use an interpreter. They would take all their general courses in ASL.

Many UVSC students are attending the conference, which ends Saturday. Lacey Voris, 23, of Provo, a senior majoring in deaf studies, said her mother-in-law is deaf. "I love the language and I love the people," said Voris, who also works as an ASL interpreter at the college.

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