BHSM Stories: Housing Authority of the City of Austin
To Celebrate Better Speech and Hearing Month, The Housing
Authority of the City of Austin, Texas' public housing
resident, Ailana Larson, teaches sign language classes to other
residents. She has her hearing but has been practicing sign
language for over 40 years. For the last ten weeks, every Monday,
Wednesday, and Friday the housing complex's cafeteria seats
have been filled during Ailana's instruction. Larson began
teaching fellow residents at Lakeside sign language because she
saw the need for interactivity between the hearing and hearing
impaired residents. She says there are at least four deaf
residents at Lakeside, who can communicate, just in a different
way. Larson's sign language classes serve to bridge the gap
of communication. She says, "I don't want to be the only
one who knows how to talk to residents that are deaf. If an
emergency occurs, everyone should know what the deaf person is
trying to say.
Over a ten week time period, Ms. Larson taught basic sign
language words for emergencies and words for day-to-day
conversation. During May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, Ms.
Larson plans on placing the food words in the cafeteria and
giving the emergency words to the maintenance staff.
Additionally, in May a book of all the words will be placed in
the city library for a continued reference. "It's
already catching on," Larson says, "Ray in maintenance
says he was able to decipher what Doris (a hearing impaired
resident) said about her room."
States Ms. Larson, "This beautiful moving language is not
only for the hearing impaired, anyone can learn and at any
age." Ms. Larson says she has taught sign language to her
son and her four-year-old grandson before they could speak words.
She says, "Children can learn sign language at a very young
You may not think of musicals and deaf persons in the same
sentence, but Larson has created two musicals in sign language:
"The Communication Connection: What Deaf People Want Hearing
People to Know About Deafness," and "Bear Essentials:
An Introduction to Sign Language Through Story, Dance and
Music." She has performed these musicals for both those who
can hear and to deaf persons to celebrate May is Better Hearing
and Speech Month.