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November 17, 2014

A Quick Chat with Paulina Garcia

Our monthly “Quick Chats” with SAGE participants offer a first-person perspective on our community.  This month, we spoke with Paulina Victoria Garcia, a Mexican-American volunteer, who is both legally blind and deaf, issues that affect many LGBT people across the country, especially as they age. Paulina comes to the SAGE Center Midtown in New York City from the Helen Keller National Center’s Vocational Training Program and started off working in the kitchen. She soon found another use of her many talents and currently runs a sign-language class for participants at SAGE Center Midtown in New York City.
 
PaulinaThanks for taking the time to talk with me Paulina. How long have you been coming to SAGE Center Midtown in New York City?
I’ve been coming to SAGE since August. I worked in the kitchen at first. I help my coworkers set up the space for dinner, prepare the food and then I hand out the meals when dinner is actually served. Since I am hard of hearing, I asked if I could start a sign-language class to help people communicate better.
 
What a great idea! How many people take your class?
My class is on Thursdays from 3-4 and about 22 people take my class. We start off with the basics of communication—always carry a notebook and a pen is the first lesson! We then move on to basic signing—ASL, or American Sign Language. Communication for people who are hard of hearing encompasses more than one method and I try to teach that from the very beginning. I’m trying to create ways for the deaf community to become more involved with SAGE and for people to be comfortable with me and others like me as I am transgender. That’s my main purpose.
 
Impressive! Is the class going well?
I am lucky in that new people are coming into the SAGE Center Midtown from the deaf community all the time and that people here want to communicate with them and each other. I have people in the class who are \ all are interested in either learning basics or learning more sign language. Some people who are older are becoming hard of hearing and they want to learn some ASL to help them communicate better. I also feel like people are very accepting of me here and I feel comfortable in a way that is very empowering.
 
What do you teach in the class?
Basic ASL–the ABC order, basic vocabulary, like colors and every day words like “happy,” “sad,” and other feelings. Especially since I work during dinner service, they use a lot of food words with me. I really try to teach them to not use their voice when signing so to experience what deaf people deal with daily.
 
Can you tell me top 5 good signs to know?
The most popular phrase for the class is “what’s your name” and then teaching them to sign with the ABC’s. Also popular is “good night”, “good morning”, “thank you,” “hello” and “my name is __________.”
 
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk, Paulina!​
 
 
--Posted by Christina DaCosta
 
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