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Organization Helps Area’s Deaf People

Ventura resident Ron Franklin almost lost his ability to communicate after being beaten and robbed by three men in downtown Ventura last spring.

The men beat Franklin with a large stick, shattering his right arm. Franklin, 46, has been deaf since birth and is right-handed.

“He couldn’t write. He couldn’t sign. He couldn’t talk,” said Coleen Ashly, acting coordinator for the Ventura office of GLAD, the Greater Los Angeles Council on Deafness, to which Franklin turned for help.

Franklin could sign a little with his left hand, Ashly said.

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“We just worked and worked and worked, and made sure we understood the story, that we understood the sequence of events,” Ashly said. GLAD staff members then told Franklin’s story to police, leading to prison terms for the three attackers.

The Ventura office of GLAD opened three years ago to serve the deaf in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. Ventura County has 7,111 deaf residents and 51,132 with some hearing impairment, GLAD officials estimate.

Funded by the state Department of Social Services, GLAD provides the deaf with free sign-language interpreters for such everyday activities as appearing in traffic court or seeing a doctor.

The agency also helps deaf people who feel discriminated against by potential employers or landlords, Ashly said.

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In addition, GLAD sponsors social activities, such as a Christmas party that features a signing Santa.

These activities are especially important for the families of deaf children, said Camarillo resident Peggy Tranevitch, whose son lost his hearing 10 years ago after contracting spinal meningitis at age 1.

The deaf adults at the social events are models for deaf children, Tranevitch said. They also help hearing parents feel more confident about their deaf child’s future.

“Parents imagine a lot of the negative things,” Tranevitch said. “To see deaf people functioning normally is a tremendous comfort to parents.”

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The organization also helps deaf parents such as Ventura resident Barbie Kafka, 40, who have hearing children. Kafka recently took a GLAD interpreter to her 12-year-old son’s school. But she said she is most grateful to GLAD staff members for talking to lawyers who helped get increased child support from her former husband.

“It was a good thing GLAD became my ears,” Kafka signed.

The signing Santa Claus will entertain children at the group’s annual Christmas party Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. at Ventura Harbor Village on Spinnaker Drive in Ventura. For more information, call 648-4523 V/TDD.


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