Wilderness Inquiry hosted its first American Sign Language (ASL) Day on the River where families and friends of the Deaf and DeafBlind community were invited to have an adventure and paddle together. This event was a wonderful opportunity to connect members of the community to each other and the outdoors through shared language and culture. Throughout the pandemic, Deaf and DeafBlind communities were severely impacted by lack of access to communication, technology, language, or the ability to socialize with friends and family. The goal of this event was to provide an outlet of connection to the community through shared outdoor adventure and exploration.
Over 40 people were accompanied by sign language interpreters, support service providers, and interveners so that Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind people had access to communication and community throughout the experience.
What is ASL?
American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual language for Deaf/deaf people to use to communicate. ASL is a complete, natural language that has the same linguistic properties as spoken languages, with grammar that differs from English. ASL is expressed by movements of the hands, facial expressions, and body language.
Experiences from Participants
Throughout the event participants shared how this experience impacted them, and introduced them not only to new people, but new activities and insights about the Twin Cities.
The interpreter was front-facing while the captain would sit up in the back facing the stern of the canoe. The Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind along with the DeafBlind supporters sat in between, two per row. I was in the last canoe to leave the shore and we all converged together at the midway point to take a bit of a break and for some storytelling.”
I went to the event with my friend and she has never been canoeing before. We were nervous and excited. We didn’t realize that we had 6-10 people on a canoe and we were thrilled because we can paddle next to each other. My friend asked a lot about the Mississippi River and its cultural history and saw a few eagles. Wilderness Inquiry staff were friendly and chatted with us. The view was so beautiful. We saw huge rocks, I wished I could bring them home so I can paint them. I saw marina boats, pirate boats, houseboats, and different kinds of boats. I enjoyed canoeing with people and it was a really fun experience with my friend.”
Wilderness Inquiry is committed to making the outdoors an inclusive space for all. We look forward to continuing to partner in support of programs that engage the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind communities in the outdoors as we live out our mission to ensure that everyone belongs in the outdoors. Donate today to help make these programs possible!