News Article from Puerto Rico written by Karol Joselyn Selpuveda for Primera Hora on September 2nd 2010, about an upcoming event related to the Deaf.

They learn the non verbal language that not many know, and they fight for their right to be accepted in a society that, on many occasions, treats them as “invisibles”. They are the Deaf community.

To help this community learn about their rights, there will be a conference-forum entitled ‘The ADA Law and its accessibility for the Deaf’ which will be held this Saturday September 11th at 2:00pm at the San German Sol Theater.

The discussion will be conducted by Irlanda Ruiz, Esq. with the support of the Cornell University.

Jose Bertran, consultant of ASL Services Latino and Gracias VRS – companies that provide services for the Deaf community, described to Primera Hora: “The event will have two parts: the first part will be to explain the ADA Law in public and private places, so people can learn their rights and be ready to protect them. During the second part, the forum, Deaf people will have the opportunity to express their arguments in front of representatives of the Governor, of the Judicial Department and the Commission of Civil Rights”.

The ADA Law (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1900) or the Law for People with Disabilities provides the opportunity for the Deaf community to have a better quality of life.

During the Puerto Rican Deaf Community Week, on September 25 there will be a march that will begin at 10:00am at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium and will end at San Gabriel School for Deaf Children in Puerto Nuevo.

“It is said that deafness is an invisible disability, but it’s not until you see the person signing that you notice it. That day we will make the Deaf community visible” stated Bertran.

The best qualified

ASL Services Latino offers interpreting services for Deaf people and also teaches sign language courses.

On the other hand, Gracias VRS is dedicated to video relay services for the Deaf. The Deaf person has a video phone at their house and through it they contact the video interpreter, which then connects to the hearing person.

Both companies were founded by Angela Roth, born in New York to Puerto Rican parents.

“She began interacting with Deaf people and became a professional interpreter. She came and founded the companies in Puerto Rico because there is a large Deaf community here” said Bertran. Gracias Video Relay Call Centers are located in San Juan, Hatillo and Aguadilla. This service is free of charge to the Deaf community by ADA Law and the FCC regulations.

“Many people ask why they have an FCC fee in their cell phone bills. Well, here is where that money goes to” explained the psychologist.

He emphasized that Puerto Rican interpreters are the best qualified “because the majority of them are trilingual and in the United States that is hard to find”.

He also mentioned that a group of interpreters of the state of Florida are assisting to create an exam that will help validate the skills of the sign language interpreters here in Puerto Rico.

Fascinated with signs

Jose Bertran’s interest in helping the Deaf Community was born in the 70s, when he was fascinated to see Aida Luz Matos in the extinct news broadcast Panorama Mundial.

“She motivated me to learn sign language… she would resume the daily news in five minutes for the Deaf community. I always waited until the end of the program to see her”, the Washington DC Gallaudet University graduate told us. Gallaudet University is the only University in the world which courses are designed for Deaf people.

This institute admits a small group of hearing people each semester, and they must have ASL (American Sign Language) skills.

Bertran, who 15 years ago founded the non-profit organization Servicios Orientados al Sordo, will begin sign language courses this Saturday at San Antonio School in Rio Piedras.

Classes will last for 14 weeks and the cost of the course includes text book and materials. Each session is two and a half hour long. For more details, call (787) 530-7464.