'No Better Time to Celebrate Spoken Language'
MILWAUKEE, June 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The 48th Biennial Convention of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) opened today in Milwaukee, Wis., hosting approximately 1,500 attendees from 44 U.S. states and 14 countries who have come together to celebrate spoken language for children and adults who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Established in 1890, AG Bell is the only national organization dedicated to supporting children and adults who are deaf or hard of hearing who use spoken language and hearing technology to communicate.
AG Bell's 2008 convention runs through June 30 and features more than 75 educational program sessions, 58 exhibitors and 200 presenters. Attendees include children who are deaf or hard of hearing who use spoken language and their parents; professionals in the hearing health and deaf education fields, including teachers of the deaf, listening and spoken language specialists, pediatricians, and researchers in the field of hearing health; and adults who are deaf or hard of hearing and use spoken language to communicate.
"This convention is unique in that nowhere else will you find such a diverse gathering of families, adults who are deaf or hard of hearing and professionals," said Karen Youdelman, Ed.D., president of AG Bell. "There has truly been no better time to celebrate spoken language."
As a result of the diversity among attendees, convention activities range from a child and teen program with field trips to local attractions to a cutting-edge research symposium funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
The AG Bell convention also features an exhibition hall with representatives from oral deaf schools nationwide, Advanced Bionics, Gallaudet University, Children's Hearing Foundation of Taiwan, Mel-El Corporation, Oticon, Sprint Relay, University of Chicago Medical Center, Medical College of Wisconsin Koss Cochlear Implant Program, leading cochlear implant and hearing aid manufacturers, and Wisconsin Organizations for the Deaf, among others.
Against the backdrop of the AG Bell convention is an expected demonstration by a group in opposition to AG Bell's mission of advocating independence through listening and spoken language. To reiterate AG Bell's position on various communication options for the deaf and hard of hearing, Youdelman stated, "AG Bell is an organization that recognizes there are many options regarding language choice, including spoken and signed languages, for the deaf. We believe there should be free, unrestricted and informed choice in communication approaches, and that parents are the ones in the best position to decide what is best for their child and their family. For those who choose spoken language, we're here to help."
"We believe that is it is far more productive to focus on what brings us together, the common issues that affect all individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, rather than what divides us as a community," continued Youdelman.
As an example, Youdelman pointed to legislation to reauthorize the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act currently under consideration by the U.S. Senate. The legislation passed the House of Representatives in April 2008. AG Bell has been actively supporting its passage with its participation in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Alliance, a coalition of leading national advocacy and professional groups representing and serving individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
"The convergence of advancements in hearing technology with legislation mandating newborn hearing screening has led to greater success for children born with hearing loss to learn to listen and talk," concluded Youdelman. "It's absolutely essential that thi