“Los Angeles is home to a large population of deaf people who are involved in many different sectors, from education, to business, to the film industry,” said Dr. Flavia S. Fleischer, a professor and chair of the Department of Deaf Studies at California State University, Northridge. “The system of deaf studies provides a foundation for understanding all human experience and interactions, as the field cuts across all communities and all known social lines.”

(Photo Courtesy of Dr. Flavia S. Fleischer)

(Photo Courtesy of Dr. Flavia S. Fleischer)

Driven by the increasing usage of video-relay services, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of job openings for sign language interpreters to grow by a significant 46 percent in coming years. In Los Angeles, these specialists earn an average annual salary of more than $44,000, according to current data.

Fleischer said there is also a demand for educators that are equipped to help deaf students become more employable.

“Most teachers are not prepared to work with deaf students,” said Fleischer, who earned her Ph.D. in linguistics from Gallaudet University. “If we expect the role of an effective teacher to change, we must look at our teacher education programs to ensure that they actually prepare teachers to become effective in supporting deaf students from a deaf-centric approach. Deaf students will never become hearing people, but must learn how to be deaf and successful in hearing spaces.”

How is your institution guiding career-driven deaf students?

“Our department provides numerous research and service-learning opportunities, and an intensive interpreter education program. Students are exposed to a wide range of people from the U.S. and abroad.”

What makes the field of deaf studies essential?

“The area of deaf studies provides us with a lens for the understanding of deaf people’s social, political, economic, historical and cultural realities through a critical examination of deaf people’s experiences.”

How does one prepare for a sustainable vocation in a deaf-related field?

“Job seekers must first understand our own ideologies about humans, then get involved in the deaf community to learn as much as they can from deaf people, and get an education that will really prepare them to work directly with deaf people, utilizing deaf-centric approaches.”

Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist who covers topics of social interest in greater Los Angeles. Some news articles she has authored have been archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Sharon also contributes to Examiner.com.

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