Frederick County Declares September Deaf Awareness Month

It recognizes the accomplishments of the local deaf & hard of hearing community.

Frederick, Md (KM) September is Deaf Awareness Month in Frederick County. During a proclamation ceremony earlier this month, County Executive Jessica Fitzwater said there are a considerable number of deaf and hard of hearing people in the community. “A 2013 census estimated that approximately 8,000 people in Frederick County experienced hearing difficulties,” she said. “But we know that the Maryland Deaf Community Center back in 2020 estimated that the deaf and hard of hearing community is probably closer to more than 50,000 members of our community.”

The President of the Maryland Deaf Community Center, Linda Stoltz, said there are a number of local businesses owned by deaf citizens. “We have a deaf painter. We have an interpreter agency that is owned by a deaf individual. There is a women’s clothing boutique here in Frederick down on the other street called ‘Eden’s Joy.’ And there are some deaf-owned businesses that are really growing here in Frederick and that’s so wonderful to see,” she said. Stoltz spoke through an American Sign Language Interpreter.

Stoltz also said there are about 150 deaf senior citizens in Frederick County.

The proclamation is  intended to recognize the achievements and contributions made by the deaf community in Frederick County. John Sarano, the Superintendent of the Maryland School for the Deaf, had praise for that. “It’s really a testament to Frederick County’s commitment to making the community inclusive for everyone, including the deaf and hard of hearing community, and that’s remarkable,” he said. Sarano also spoke through an ASL interpreter.

Also at the event were Shayna Unger and Scott Lehman, two life-long Frederick residents who were the first deaf people to climb Mount Everest, which is considered the highest mountain on the planet. Scott commented through a translator. “Three months, yes, the two of us were standing on top of Mount Everest, 29,000 feet up in the air,” he said. “Shayna is the first deaf woman in the world and the first deaf American female to summit that mountain. And what’s beautiful is about  our  community is seeing the investment in the deaf and hard of hearing. They really invested in us; really believed in us. And now they can see the results, and that was great,” he said, through an interpreter.

Shayna Unger also spoke through an ASL interpreter. “Seventy percent of our training for that was here in Frederick: running in Baker Park; going along Carroll Creek. We worked out at the Rec Center. So Frederick is part of our identity as mountain climbers and part of our journey,” she said.

The deaf community also includes persons whose primary means of communication is American Sign Language. It’s also individuals who use hearing aids, assisted listening devices and other forms of amplification.

By Kevin McManus