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Deaf Studies Today!

Deaf Lives 360º

Digital Conference, April 5-16, 2021



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About Deaf Studies Today!



The international Deaf Studies Today! conference is a professional, academic conference that brings together the brightest minds and latest thinking within the interdisciplinary field of Deaf Studies. Running from 2004 to 2014 the biennial Deaf Studies Today! conference quickly became the primary site for the exchange of information and thinking for anyone interested in Deaf Studies. The conference has also become an important cultural space where Deaf people gather to create, renew and maintain relationships. After a four year break, Deaf Studies Today! returned  in 2018 with a series of mini and digital conferences.

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Conference Format

The 2021 Deaf Studies Today! conference will be a digital conference in which conference registrants can view presentations at their own pace. There will be opportunities for socialization on Zoom. All keynote and accepted presentations will be pre-recorded.



Full Registration $75.00 Yes
Student (current) $15.00 No
UVU affiliated (Students, Faculty, Staff)  Free No
 Parents of deaf children* $15.00 No
(*not for parents in deaf-related professions)

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Keynote Speakers

Dr. Wyatte Hall

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Dr. Hall’s keynote will highlight a 360 degree view of language deprivation from its historical roots to modern day research.

Wyatte C. Hall, Ph.D. is a Research Assistant Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Pediatrics, Public Health Sciences, and Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and a Faculty Fellow in the University of Rochester Office of Equity & Inclusion. As a deaf population health researcher, he focuses on connecting childhood language experiences to adult outcomes with a particular focus on the phenomenon of language deprivation. He has published in scientific journals including Maternal & Child Health Journal, American Journal of Public Health, and the Bulletin of the World Health Organization. He is also co-editor of the recently-published book Language Deprivation and Deaf Mental Health.

Twitter: @wyattehall

Dr. Kristin Snoddon

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Dr. Snoddon's keynote will highlight sign language policy and planning in early language acquisition.

Kristin Snoddon, Ph.D. is Associate Professor with the School of Early Childhood Studies, Ryerson University. Her research and professional experience includes collaborative work with deaf communities in developing sign language and early literacy programming for young deaf children and their parents. Additionally, she analyzes policy issues related to inclusive education, sign language rights, and acquisition planning for ASL. Her publications have appeared in the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, Canadian Modern Language Review, Current Issues in Language Planning, Disability & Society, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, International Journal of Inclusive Education, International Journal of Multilingualism, Sign Language Studies, and Writing & Pedagogy.


Twitter: @KristinSnoddon





Conference Entertainment


Sunshine 2.0 performers pose with outstretched hands and all black clothing. All four presenters are entertainers of color.


The Journey of Sunshine Too and 2.0


Sunshine 2.0 is a professional traveling theater troupe based at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, New York. The troupe provides performances and activities for deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults that highlight the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM), as well as educational topics pertaining to the Deaf experience. The theater troupe travels to schools and programs serving deaf and hard-of-hearing students, colleges, museums, conferences, civic groups, festivals and other venues all over U.S.A. Their.Performances are presented in voice and in American Sign Language, are accessible to all audience members and cover subjects for people of all ages. Sunshine 2.0 members are Shiann Cook, Bianca Ware, Zain Ahmed and Tyler Fortson.


Conference Presenters


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Michael B Ballard

The Counter-Narrative Cycle: Examining Lived-Realities in Deaf Lives


Using a reconstructionist approach and DeafCrit lens, the Counter-Narrative Cycle is a model for storytelling in deaf communities. The telling of stories is one of the oldest pedagogical approaches to education; The Counter-Narrative Cycle is intended to influence changes in ideology and society. Dr. Ballard’s presentation centers on how deaf individuals prevail in navigating their lived-realities. The cycle explores how society and ideology hold dominant narratives and resulting behaviours, attitudes, and beliefs influence deaf individuals and their impact on the essences of lived-experience. The desire to change paves way to counter-narratives that, in turn, challenge currently held views in society and ideology.

Michael Ballard, Ph.D., is a communications studies social scientist and the Program Director of the ASL & Deaf Studies Program and Assistant Professor in the Department of Languages & Cultures at Utah Valley University. He earned a Ph.D. in Education from Drake University and an MA in Communication and Leadership from Gonzaga University. His research interest includes intercultural communication, healthy identity formation, Deaf role models and cultural capital, and navigating Deaf-hearing cultural conflicts. In addition to classroom settings, Dr. Ballard provides cultural workshops and consultations. When not working in the academy, Dr. Ballard enjoys spending time with his family, fishing, outdoor cooking, and bonfires.

Twitter: @ballardmichaelb

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Fred Michael Beam

The Contribution of Black Deaf Performing Arts


Historically, most Deaf African American performers have had limited opportunity and visibility in Black, Deaf, and American histories because of the color of their skin. They are often identified as Deaf second because of their hidden disability and typical Americans see our performers as Black or Deaf but never as a whole. The contribution of Black Deaf performing artists not only offers insights into the eyes of Deaf African Americans and their history but also represents a history of all of us, because the issues of our identity, self-portrayal, culture, and language are related to the experiences of any individual or group who feels “invisible.” This presentation will cover the history and rise of Black Deaf performing arts and the contributions, presentations, activities, and art of Deaf Performing Artists of Color.

Fred Beam is currently the outreach coordinator of Sunshine 2.0, a touring theater troupe at The Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) National Technical Institute of the Deaf (NTID). He has been Director of ASL in numerous plays at Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, and community theaters. A professional dancer, actor, choreographer, and director, Fred has performed around the globe with well known dance companies, including The Wild Zappers, National Deaf Dance Theater, and Gallaudet Dance Company. Fred has received numerous awards and recognitions, including being named as one of The Real Men of the Year in Essence Magazine, his work in Deaf Theater in THEATER magazine, and Deaf Person of the Month in DEAF LIFE. He has been a former president of National Black Deaf Advocates and DC Area Black Deaf Advocates.


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Becca Clark

Deafness for Sale: The Commodification of Representation


Television advertisements are not known for their inclusion of diversity or positive representations of minority groups. However, the vast majority of people are exposed to advertising in many contexts, consuming it and its inherent messages relating to diversity without serious consideration. In the past thirty years, the Deaf community has appeared repeatedly in marketing campaigns. Alongside consumer products such as cars and jewelry, deaf bodies and sign languages have been utilized in media advertising to sell ideas about goods and goodness. The presence of deaf individuals or sign language in television advertisements simultaneously promotes notions about diversity and representation, while also trading on the cultural cachet of disability and difference. This presentation will critically assess Deaf representation in mainstream advertisements, exploring polarizing community responses, and uncovering how deafness has been marshalled as an advertising tool.

Rebecca Clark, MA, graduated with a BA in Marketing and a minor in American Sign Language from the University of Iowa and an MA in Deaf Cultural Studies from Gallaudet University; her thesis was entitled “American Sign Language and the Desire to Buy: A Study of ASL in TV Advertisements." Rebecca is currently the director of undergraduate studies for the American Sign Language Program at the University of Iowa. She teaches a variety of courses, including Deaf Gain: Redefining Deaf People, Cultures, and Languages and Deaf Representations in the Media.


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Lisalee D. Egbert and Todd LaMarr

Discipline at Deaf Schools: Patterns of Concern Related to Gender and Ethnicity 


Over 90% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents and are often deprived of full language access at an early age. Language deprivation also occurs for older Deaf school-aged children when misinformed and outdated ideologies persist, such as student suspensions at Deaf residential schools. This is especially important for Black Deaf students who may be disproportionately suspended in Deaf schools and have been shown to score lower on tests of academic and sign language ability. This article presents suspension data from one Deaf school with a focus on suspension patterns of Black Deaf students. Our results show that Black Deaf students, especially Black males, may be at risk of being suspended at higher rates than other students in Deaf schools. We argue that high suspensions deprive Black Deaf students of full access to the rich language that is available in Deaf classrooms and restricts their ability to thrive linguistically and academically.

Lisalee D. Egbert, Ph.D., is a visiting professor at McDaniel College in the ASL/Deaf Education department. She received a Civic Engagement Award from the State of Maryland for service in social justice, diversity, and equality.


Todd LaMarr, MA, is a professor in the department of Early Childhood Education at American River College in Sacramento, Calif. An alumnus of Gallaudet University’s Science of Learning Center on Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2), LaMarr has worked at the University of California – Davis, and Stanford University, researching the language and brain development of children learning American Sign Language.


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Zachary Featherstone

Navigating Medical Care as a Deaf Person in Setting of COVID: Perspective of a Deaf Doctor


Having been on the front-lines of treating COVID-19 in pediatric settings, including a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), two separate busy pediatric hospitals, COVID testing tents, and outpatient pediatric clinics, Dr. Featherstone has witnessed firsthand the challenges Deaf/hard-of-hearing individuals have with accessing humane medical care. In this presentation, he will discuss the challenges the Deaf/hard-of-hearing community faces in accessing medical care, especially from a physician's perspective. Additionally, he will provide tips and recommendations on navigating the healthcare system and obtaining proper medical care, specifically in the emergency room, hospital, and outpatient setting.

Zachary Featherstone, D.O., is currently training as a pediatrician at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas School of Medicine. He serves on the executive committee of the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Loss (AMPHL) and is the co-founder of Deaf in Scrubs. He obtained a BS from Brigham Young University and became a certified physician upon graduating from Pacific Northwest University School of Osteopathic Medicine. While in medical school, he was recognized as the Honorable Student Doctor of the Year and inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society. Between medical school and training as a pediatrician, he completed research on the health of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing population at Gallaudet University.



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Christine Firkins

Best Practices for Supporting Part-Time Deaf ASL Faculty in Higher Education


There has been a sharp rise in American Sign Language courses taught by Deaf part-time faculty offered at higher education institutions in the United States. With an astonishing increase of part-time, non-tenure-track faculty, colleges and universities are implementing policies to support part-time faculty (PTF) and department chairs play a pivotal role. Research literature includes supporting practices for PTF but none exists on how to best support Deaf PTF teaching ASL. This research explores supporting practices that department chairs and program directors provide to their Deaf PTF and uncovered distinctive supporting practices that align with Deaf cultural practices to develop a Deaf-Centric Model of Best Supporting Practices for Deaf PTF.

Christine Firkins, Ed.D, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Deaf Studies at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). At CSUN, Christine leads all ASL assessments and works closely with part-time ASL faculty for curriculum revisions. Christine received an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from CSUN and also earned an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies in Communications, Deaf Studies, and Linguistics and a Single Subject Teaching Credential in ASL. Christine’s main fields of interest are second language pedagogy specifically in ASL, sign language acquisition, Deaf non-tenure-track ASL faculty, and Deaf faculty issues in higher education.


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Mani-Jade Garcia

Language-Based Exclusion and Deaf Mental Health: Introduction and Conceptual Foundations


The gold-standard model of deaf mental health is grounded in the complex interplay of culture and disability as they pertain to language access across the lifetime. In the last few decades, a focus on language deprivation has galvanized the deaf mental health clinical specialty, providing a much-needed organizing framework to build on. In this presentation, I will discuss a construct that may significantly contribute to our understanding of how language experiences impact deaf mental health: language-based exclusion (LBE). LBE is drawn from research on linguistic diversity, demonstrating that language is a distinct and powerful means of social inclusion/exclusion. This discussion includes both what is and, importantly, is not within the scope of language deprivation studies (e.g., ongoing experiences of LBE that may impact deaf mental health similar to how chronic stressors, daily hassles, microaggressions, and other factors impact other minoritized groups).

Emmanuel (Mani) García, MA, MPhil, is a psychotherapist and a doctoral student in clinical psychology at CUNY–John Jay College. Mani has worked as a freelance sign language interpreter for twenty-nine years. He began his training as a deaf mental health researcher/clinician in 2015. Mani is interested in improving access to physical and mental health education, assessment, and interventions for minoritized groups. He is committed to using culturally affirmative and decolonized qualitative and quantitative methods in his research and practice. He has been trained in the use of digital research and cognitive-affective-social neuroscience methods to engage in and inform his research and practice.

Twitter: @manithegarcia
Instagram: @manithegarcia

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Kara Gournaris

Facing Transitions: Learning ASL in Online Environment


The nuances of a 3D experience like American Sign Language (ASL) are easy to miss in face-to-face classrooms and this is made more complicated by slow internet speed, freezing video, and dimly lit rooms. The complications of learning ASL online are further confounded by a lack of opportunity to engage with native language models due to COVID-19. Online classroom instruction doesn’t provide students with incidental learning opportunities that are essential for language acquisition. Even this temporary shift to online learning may have a lasting impact on students’ second language acquisition experience. This presentation will examine various impacts the transition to online learning has on second language acquisition, and the inequity that Deaf professionals face, both short and long term, as a result of this transition to online instruction.

Kara Gournaris, Ed.D., is an Assistant Professor in the ASL Studies program at Western Oregon University. She earned an Ed.D. from Portland State University in Educational Leadership, with a concentration in curriculum and instruction. Kara’s dissertation research focused on second language learners of ASL, and their legitimate peripheral participation (LPP) and apprenticeship into Deaf Communities of Practice (CoP). Kara has taught American Sign Language and other Deaf-related courses for the past sixteen years in various post-secondary settings. When she is not working, she enjoys cycling, drinking coffee, sharing her love for animals and hanging out with her partner.


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Gloshanda Lawyer, S. Jordan Wright, and Edward H. Bart, IV

Redrawing the Boundaries of Audism 


This presentation analyzes the historic events, spaces, and ripple effects of the 1988 Deaf President Now (DPN) protests through the lens of DisCrit, DeafCrit, and Critical Race Theory, as it shines light upon the limitations of the current boundaries of DeafCrit. In tandem with critical analysis, we utilize the reignition of the BLM movement to analyze legal systems that ensnare deaf bodies who exist as Others. Ultimately, we reinvent these ideas to form Post Modern Audism, arguing that the aftermath of DPN is simply not the golden age for the Deaf community but rather inspired the beginnings of DeafCrit, focusing on the validity of the Eurocentric Deaf body (Whiteness), which currently informs Post-Modern Audism (PMA). PMA acknowledges that while Deaf bodies have legal and theoretical equality, the shift moves to address intersectionality and encompass multiple epistemologies of Deaf bodies that further unpack the worldhood of being Deaf.

Jordan Wright, Ph.D, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Liberal Studies at RIT/NTID. His research interests include Critical Theory, and multiple literacies of Deaf, deafblind, deafdisabled, and hard of hearing (DDBDDHH) adults. 


Gloshanda Lawyer, Ph.D, is a community-based Language Justice and Disability Justice practitioner. She also conducts local, national, and international research on Critical Theory, colonization of DDBDDHH bodies/minds, and Deaf education. 

Twitter: @iamstillhealing

Edward Bart, IV is a Ph.D. student at Lamar University. His dissertation focuses on media representation of Deaf individuals, particularly that of marginalized Deaf bodies, alongside his interest in Critical Theory.

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Jannelle Legg

Historical Deaf Space and Place


This presentation explores the routes of the Protestant Episcopal ministry to the deaf between 1850 and 1880. During this period an increasing number of itinerant ministers and lay readers offered signed services in borrowed and built church spaces, offering blessings and support to deaf parishioners “scattered in the wilds.” These missionaries utilized increasingly sophisticated strategies to organize and conduct signed services, navigating church hierarchies and negotiating social networks to form and build deaf religious communities. The regular or intermittent visitation of signing ministers allowed deaf people to participate in the practices of religious expression often denied in hearing worship spaces. This work implements digital mapping to trace the emergence of a missionary network and explores the relationship between the Protestant Episcopal Mission and traditional sites of deaf community gathering.

Jannelle Legg is a Ph.D. candidate at George Mason University in the department of History and Art History and a lecturer in the American Sign Language program at the University of Iowa. She holds dual MA degrees in Deaf History and Deaf Studies from Gallaudet University.

Twitter: @jannellelegg


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Rachel Mazique

Language Deprivation in College Writing Classrooms


This presentation will discuss the powerful (and sometimes dangerous) relationships between language deprivation, language ideologies, and teacher and student positionality. I argue that teachers (at all grade levels) who seek to provide culturally sustaining writing classrooms for their (intersectional) deaf and hard-of-hearing students must consider their positionalities as well as the contexts of language deprivation and ideologies about language. When it comes to deaf and hard-of-hearing students, students’ varying language ideologies may be a result of experiences of language deprivation. Thus, teachers and students need to be engaged in a partnership to understand how racist, ableist, and audist systems and situations delimit most deaf writers’ exposure to language(s) at the earliest age.

Rachel Mazique, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) specializing in Deaf literature, Deaf studies, and disability studies. Her research  encompasses cognitive approaches to literary studies, human rights discourses, and theories of ethnicity. Rachel teaches First Year Writing Seminar, Critical Reading and Writing, and Deaf Literature to both deaf and hearing students at RIT. Courses taught at the University of Texas at Austin include courses Mazique designed for the Department of English and the Department of Rhetoric and Writing: “Literature, Visual Culture, and Deaf Studies,” and “Disability in Pop Culture,” respectively.

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Rachel Nelson

On Loss and Hope: My Gaining Deafness Story


This story is about me and my journey through hearing loss, learning about my new identities, and finding a home. At 17, rather than losing my hearing, I gained my deafness. In this presentation, I share my lived realities, my sorrows and joys, my challenges and triumphs, and my rejections and acceptance. To me, being deaf was not a loss of character, but it has taught me to be a better human being. Along the way, the choice to identify as deaf has been a source of strength. Though gaining deafness occured over a decade ago, the stories shared are still raw and fresh. In an age where it is easy to share misinformation about what losing hearing really means, the time is now to share my truth.

Rachel Nelson is a student at Utah Valley University studying psychology and deaf education. She aspires to be a licensed therapist for both hearing and deaf children who have experienced trauma. Her goal is to be a life coach and help people to find peace within trials.

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Genelle Sanders

Deaf Students’ Experiences Navigating Isolation and Bias at College


Accessibility in postsecondary institutions is frequently limited to classroom accommodations, yet research highlights the importance of inclusivity across all levels from the classroom to social networking events. Deaf students face challenges in accessing fundamental experiences of postsecondary education leading to a domino effect impacting their academic, social, and emotional well-being. This presentation utilizes the grounded theory approach to examine themes fitting the ACCESS framework while allowing for emergent themes for subsequent thematic analysis. Findings highlight emergent themes of the role of faculty attitudes, impact on well-being, and lack of inclusivity experienced throughout students’ academic career. The implications of these data address the issue of silos of accessibility throughout postsecondary experiences as specific contexts may be accessible, while others like social events, a crucial part of the higher education experience, remain inaccessible.

Genelle Sanders, MA, is a Ph.D. candidate in Interpersonal Communication in the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a graduate research assistant at the National Deaf Center of Postsecondary Outcomes at the University of Texas at Austin. Her dissertation explores conflict settings within deaf-hearing romantic dyads and her current research interests focus on communication between deaf and hearing individuals, such as family, romantic, and work colleagues. Additionally, she focuses on the experiences of Children of Deaf Adults (CODAs) and their experiences of language acquisition and communication skills building.


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Judy Saunders

Do Not Call Me ‘Not Smart’


Do Not Call Me ‘Not Smart’ is a biographical presentation about how various educators in my life have incorrectly judged my intelligence levels. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school where someone analyzed my strengths and found gaps in my education that my perspective about life completely changed. Once given the appropriate tools to fill in gaps in my learning, acquire new skills, and live independently, I was able to navigate the world with greater success. The purpose of this presentation is to provide a warning to educators who incorrectly judge deaf students in their education, regardless of where the deaf student was educated. 

Judy Saunders has been an instructor of American Sign Language at high schools, and Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University for nearly thirty years. She is a 1981 alumna of Gallaudet College, now known as Gallaudet University. When not teaching, she loves exploring the outdoors, taking walks, handmade crafts, gardening, and her cats and chickens.


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Michael E. Skyer and Laura Cochell 

Critical Deaf Pedagogy and ASL Video-publications as Resistance-to-Audism in Deaf Education and Research


From a critical pedagogy standpoint, we examined a bilingual (American Sign Language [ASL] and English) video-publication titled “Seizing Academic Power.” The video-publication explores interactions of power and knowledge in deaf education and research and proposes tools to subvert ableism and deficit ideologies within them. By centralizing multiple visuospatial modalities, the video-publication’s medium is also its message. Our analysis highlights conflicts at the nexus of ontology, epistemology, axiology, and methodology of deaf education and research. Findings reveal how deaf students gain and develop critical consciousness within the classroom, depending on their teachers’ conceptions of marginalized cultures, use of signed languages, and multimodal knowledge, all of which modulate power and ethics in deaf pedagogy and research about it.

Michael E. Skyer is a Ph.D. candidate in the Teaching and Curriculum program, Warner School of Education, University of Rochester. He is also a senior lecturer in the Master of Science in Secondary Education for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing program, National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology.

Twitter: @MichaelSkyer

Laura Cochell is a Ph.D. candidate in the Teaching, Curriculum and Change program at the University of Rochester, Warner School of Education. Her dissertation explores the racial inequities and unequal power dynamics in mathematics classrooms. Other research interests include social foundations of education, curriculum and instruction, and social justice reform in mathematics education.