Deaf Studies

International Week of Deaf People: Kaila Cruz

October 13, 2023

Kaila Cruz

International Week of Deaf People
, also known as Deaf Awareness Week, is an initiative that was established by World Federation of the Deaf and first launched in Rome, Italy in 1958. The goal of the initiative is to celebrate Deaf people. This celebration takes place annually in September. The theme for 2023’s International week of Deaf People is A World Where Deaf People Everywhere Can Sign Anywhere.

In support of International Week of Deaf People, the Michael D. Eisner College of Education and the department of Deaf Studies is proud to highlight Kaila Cruz, one of our all-star students majoring in Deaf Studies. 

When did you learn American Sign Language and what was your experience?

In my hearing family, there is no Deaf member who has any exposure or knowledge of the culture. I am grateful for my mom's dedication to providing a good life for me despite being Deaf. She gave me a taste of both speaking and learning sign language. The beauty of American Sign Language immediately captured my heart when I discovered it at age 4 and acquired it quickly, easily, and without formal instruction. Since then, I was enrolled in pre-kindergarten with my Deaf & HOH peers and exposed to Deaf Community Cultural Wealth, and I finally felt like I fit in with my d/Deaf/HOH peers. My mom's passion and dedication made it an ecstatic, joyful experience for me. Without her commitment, I would have struggled to discover my true identity as Deaf, not only that, but also a language and community to belong to.

Why did you major in Deaf Studies and what are your career goals?

As a result of my experiences during my school years, I witnessed a number of issues in Deaf Education that affected me and my fellow d/Deaf/HOH students. I am currently completing my bachelor's degree in Deaf Studies with a concentration in Pre-Deaf Education, with the hope of applying to the teacher credentials program at CSUN post-graduation. Eventually, I hope to become a Deaf and Hard of Hearing elementary school teacher who will teach Deaf children about American Sign language and Deaf Culture. I am interested in ensuring that Deaf children are able to acquire a language, develop social, emotional, and cognitive skills throughout elementary school, and embrace their identities with no apologies. As a Deaf role model for Deaf children, this is a significant reason for me to step forward. Due to the fact that the education system and society today is set up to serve hearing children, Deaf children lack many opportunities to equitable education. They are ultimately suffering from language delays which negatively affect their cognitive, social, and emotional development. It's time to put an end to that.

What do you think society/people need to know about the Deaf community/Deaf Culture?

It is important for society/people to know they should not be afraid of Deaf people. Although they may feel they are unable to communicate with Deaf people if they cannot sign, we, Deaf people, have plenty of experience getting around language barriers if they give us a chance. Let's open up to gesturing, writing, or texting-or we may tell them it's okay to use their voice (If a Deaf person chooses to use their voice or is okay with you talking directly to them, that doesn't mean they aren't deaf! Deaf people have many different forms and ways of communicating). Others can also learn how to sign! In ASL, even just knowing the alphabet and a few choice signs can help. And it’s so worth it.

Personally, what makes you thrive/succeed as a Deaf person?

My Deaf identity thrives with accessibility. Accessibility is a system that creates an equitable experience for me. This is what truly inspires me to become a better advocate for myself and other d/Deaf/HOH people to ensure we have full access to communication in everyday settings and everywhere. As a result, I have also been able to find out what's best for me by modifying my needs and growing into a more confident person.