Museum joins Deaf community to celebrate 200 years of ASL

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News release details

As a Deaf child in school, Rick Zimmer was hit on the hand with a wooden ruler when he used sign language and forced to try speaking instead. The youngest in a large family with four Deaf siblings, he was confused and frightened to find the language and culture he grew up with at home was prohibited by his teachers.

"I had the feeling that my language had been taken away from me – and it was a long time before I realized I could speak out about it," said Zimmer, who today coordinates Deaf Studies and ASL‐English Interpretation at Red River College (RRC). "I was an adult before I even knew that it had a name."

Its name is American Sign Language (ASL) and this year marks 200 years since it was created. On May 17, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) partners with the Manitoba Cultural Society of the Deaf and the Manitoba Association of Visual Language Interpreters to host a day of celebration. As part of the program, Zimmer will share his personal story and the struggle of the Deaf community for the right to their language and culture.

WHAT: Celebration of ASL bicentennial
WHEN: Wednesday, May 17, 2017, 2 p.m and 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: CMHR, 85 Israel Asper Way

A free evening program in Bonnie & John Buhler Hall begins at 6:30 p.m. with drumming by students from the Manitoba School for the Deaf and also includes a presentation by Zimmer, a performance by the 100 Decibels Deaf Mime Troupe, ASL skits by RRC Deaf Studies students, and a theatre piece by Michael Austria and Robbie Phillips. English interpretation will be provided.

At 2 p.m., Zimmer will relay his story and the history of ASL in a presentation in the Museum's Stuart Clark Garden of Contemplation, delivered through sign language with English interpretation (free with admission.) Zimmer is an original member of the Museum's Inclusive Design Advisory Council and also provides introductory narration in ASL for an exhibit about the rights of persons with disabilities. All Museum content is accessible through captioning and sign language.

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Maureen Fitzhenry