Deaf People of the Year
Advocate for Deaf people's language and civil rights
Julie Rems-Smario, Founding Executive Director of DeafHope, head of School and Community Resources in CSD-Fremont’s Outreach Services, and President of California Association of the Deaf, was profiled in DEAF LIFE's April 2014 issue. Her story is posted on that month's profile page.
When she learned that she had been chosen as Deaf Person of the Year for 2015, she was "floored." Her husband, David Smario, called her to look at his Facebook wall, where she saw the cover photo. "The first thing I said to David was, 'But the work is not done, it has barely begun.'"
We shared a favorite quotation from the Talmudic tractate Pirke Avoth (in the Talmud, usually translated as "Ethics of the Fathers") from Rabbi Tarfon: "You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it."
Photo courtesy of Clare Cassidy
Rems-Smario knows that the challenges facing the Deaf community are enormous: "a national epidemic of language-deprived deaf children," schools for the deaf being used as dumping grounds for students, especially those with cochlear implants, who fail to thrive in oral/AVT programs, seen as a last resort instead of a prime choice, audiologists and other professionals feeding the same old lies to parents to deaf babies, the political machinations of well-funded groups like AGBell and its cohort Option Schools, pushing for favorable legislation behind the Deaf community's back, the urgent need for a 24-hour, 7-day video-relay hotline for Deaf victims of domestic and sexual violence . . . and the general plight of Black youth in our society, who are routinely subjected to harassment and arrest simply because they're Black.
Exposure to and freedom to use ASL, she argues, is a basic human right for deaf babies.
She wants to continue the work, and reminds us that each of us has the power to create solutions. "No one can do this alone but everyone can do this together."