WFSE Celebrates Deaf Awareness Month

This September, with the help of WFSE activist member Tommy Fuglestad, we’ve taken to social media to celebrate and explore Deaf culture. We’ve learned about how to make communicating easier for our Deaf union siblings, had a laugh with some comics about life as a Deaf person, and learned more about Deaf folks’ perspectives at work.

WFSE connected with Fuglestad to get his perspective on Deaf Awareness Month, being a Deaf union member, and how hearing people can be better allies.

Deaf Awareness Month is about educating hearing folks about the Deaf, their issues, their struggles, how to recognize them, and how to interact with them properly,” said Fuglestad.

He’s committed to advocacy for Deaf members of our union.

“I'm looking forward reaching out to Deaf members across the state and talking to them about our union,” he said.

Fuglestad has been Deaf his whole life. It comes with pros and cons, he says.

“I can do anything except to hear— like everything is silent. The Deaf can be smarter than the hearing in some ways.”

With the proper technology and support, our Deaf union siblings are able to participate fully in the work our union does. However, barriers do exist. “I wouldn't be able to speak (sign) in front of audience or understand what the speaker is saying without an interpreter,” said Fuglestad.

How should hearing folks communicate with a Deaf person if an interpreter is not present and they don’t know sign language?

Fuglestad suggested using the notepad app on your phone to share written messages. Text messages will work, too, as do pen and paper and communicating by gesture.

If you’re curious about how you can learn more about Deaf culture, Fuglestad suggested exploring online resources, as well as taking American Sign Language, or ASL courses.

He’s passionate about how hearing members of WFSE can show solidarity to Deaf members.

“Speak up for them, depending on their situation and/or issues within the community,” he said. “Interact with them in respectful ways.”