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Efforts bridge gaps between deaf & hearing communities

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Imagine living in a world of silence. It's a world Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities director Benny Servino says the deaf and hearing-impaired community face everyday. "The deaf community feels that sometimes they've been ignored and their needs have not been recognized," he summarized.

And in order to bring awareness to the community, DISID is partnering with Melissa Cayton, the director behind Guam Deaf: Exposed and Empowered - a documentary capturing the experiences and accounts of our deaf ancestry in Guam. "She's going to document their experiences, their struggles, the challenges and also some of the recommendations they can share to the community about how you can bridge the gap between the deaf community and the hearing community," said Servino. "Aand this documentary is the first of its kind and we're excited to be a co-sponsor, because with this document we can actually collect some of the data we need on the number of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing here on Guam."

Cayton grew up in Barrigada and is the eldest child of two deaf parents. Servino says Cayton was the "go-to" person to help family and family friends bridge the gap between communication. For 15 years, she taught hearing and deaf students in the public school system and at the college level. "Once the documentary is complete, Melissa hopes to submit this to the FESTPAC event and that way it will be a greater awareness of these issues and people can see the struggles that our man'amko and our ancestors with disabilities had to go through with education, the community accessing services," he noted.

In the meantime, Cayton and DISID hope to engage with the deaf community by hosting the Deaf Jam Fiesta on July 11 at Governor Joseph Flores Memorial Park at Ypao Beach. It's a day in celebration of deaf empowerment filled with activities, entertainment and resource vendors. Servino hopes the event will be the catalyst for collecting data on the deaf community, telling KUAM News, "So this will offer greater awareness so they can come out with the community, and hopefully we can establish that registry so we can collect that data and it's accurate data within the spectrum of the system of continuum of care."

For more information, visit http://disid.guam.gov

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