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Disabled Lives Matter

Season 1, Episode 21

Co-Hosts: Nadine Vogel & Norma Stanley

Guest: Jane Fernandez

Intro: [Music playing in background] Disabled Lives Matter… here we go!

Voiceover: Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the disabled lives matter podcast with co-hosts Nadine Vogel and Norma Stanley... yay!

Nadine Vogel: Hi I’m Nadine Vogel and I want to welcome you to today's podcast of disabled lives matter, this is not just a podcast, this is a movement and joining me in this incredible movement is my co-host, Norma Stanley.

NORMA STANLEY: Hi everybody.

Nadine Vogel: Hey Norma how are you.

NORMA STANLEY: I’m doing great how are you guys doing today.

Nadine Vogel: We are good, I am really, good because I get to join you in interviewing an old friend of mine Jane Fernandez. So, Jane is the President of Guilford college and she's the ninth President and the first deaf woman to lead an American college or university, so she totally exemplifies this issue of disabled lives matter so Jane welcome to the show.

Jane Fernandes: Thank you I’m excited to be here, look forward to talking with you.

Nadine Vogel: Absolutely, so tell us, I mean my gosh obviously there's a lot of history between you know you growing up going to college and becoming a college President. So, talk to us a little bit about that path that journey.

Jane Fernandes: Well, I grew up as a deaf child, and I was fortunate because I had a deaf mother who already know how to work with a deaf baby or to tell yourself that was a benefit that helped, I was very much many streamed into this world not aware of deaf world I’ve been painting my family.

Nadine Vogel: Got it.

Jane Fernandes: Went to public schools and I had support at home to really teach and really learn what's going on in school. So, I committed a lot of my time to learn how to speak read and write English. Large amount of time. And eventually, it did come to fruition. I always liked public school. I did I did fairly well, I have some interesting stories I could tell you about my school. Before I go into my career.

NORMA STANLEY: Let's hear it.

Jane Fernandes: Okay well I have a couple of stories. They show things about how the worlds not really made for deaf people. And we are always negotiatinh with the hearing world about who we are and what we're capable of.


Jane Fernandes: The world sometimes put assumptions on us and generally those assumptions hold us to a lower expectation, my feeling.

Nadine Vogel: Yeah, I agree.

Jane Fernandes: They have limits. With something like speed limits. Speed limits try to have a strike safely you must slow down and follow us on that journey keeps us safe, those are good ones. But I feel that the world has put a lot of these limits on me as a deaf person on deaf people in general where they underestimate what it means to be done. So anyway, for example, I went to kindergarten in a public school near my home. I’d rather from walk to school. I was excited because I’ve never saw so many kids before. They went into the class and a few days in I got excited because we all got pencils and we were practicing handwriting. They were thick pencils we used those a long time ago. And then I saw oh they have a pencil sharpener over there on the wall and I saw people go over there, so oh so I don't know what one point in the day, I decided I’m going to go over there now, I want to sharpen my pencil. And when I turned around everyone in the class was laughing. Maybe I don't know, maybe they were just laughing but I felt like they were making fun of me I didn’t know what's going on, and I saw the teacher was stern, sit down. And I got so overwhelmed I don't know what happened exactly so that I decided to bolt I left I ran out of the class I ran out of the school, I ran home. I was crying because I didn't know what I did wrong. Everyone else sharpened the pencil but I went at the wrong time, or something. My mother, she had to calm me down and later she walked me back to school and she made it clear that that was my school. Even though it didn't feel like it was my school she told me this is your school, and you have to make it your school. In her mind you know, she knew other children all went to deaf schools separate schools for deaf students, which are fine they're good but for a decision for me, was to go to a public school right. And that had to be mine but then after that my mother got more involved in school so she helped the school understand somethings about how to do better with someone like me.

Nadine Vogel: Right, well she wanted you to focus on the hearing world, more so than the deaf world, correct.

Jane Fernandes: She did yes. I’ll talk more about that. But yes she did.

Nadine Vogel: Oh okay.

Jane Fernandes: Yes, she wanted us to focus on the hearing world. So another example, just because you brought that up. When it's short time later, maybe one or two years later we practiced different things about how to do things in the world. So she sent me to a local drugstore. I could walk home. She gave me money and she told me what to buy, I forgot. But the goal was that I would go in and buy it get the change and come home and then no one would know I was deaf. So she taught me more to do have act, I went in the store, which person in the store by the way they look for how about you most likely to help me. And which probably wouldn’t. Okay, so anyway, I did I went, and I bought the thing I got the change I got the bag and I walked home crowd around them didn't know. But so, my mother was helping. But when I look back on it now, I wonder what was in my mind that I was happy to be something, or I appeared to be something that I wasn't. And I felt proud to be hearing or act as if I’m hearing and not so proud to be deaf. I had to hide the cover. But yes, my mother did want me to know about the hearing world she did and I'm not sorry about that. Okay I’m glad I did that, at the same time, I have a lot to do, on the other side when I realized what I had missed, and what I never knew about deaf people. That was a big loss, I had to make up, but one thing I will say in my high school in Worcester mass door high school. I went to highschool and I had some close friends. Not huge number but some close ones, and again mostly succeeded if I didn't really make everyone, I can hear you I don't know what you're sad or just go along keep everything. But one time, one of my friends was an African American girl. I’m a white girl, she was an African American girl and she's way ahead of me I remember I just followed along. We were both in the same English class. and generally, I always thought it. always got a or a minus or something generally I always got an A or -A and generally she got a B or C, generally. Well for whatever reason, we just decided to swap papers, so I wrote my paper she wrote her paper buy we swapped we put each other’s name and we sent it inn. And then the paper that she wrote, I it had my handwriting it looked like mine, I still don't match. She still got to a B or B- or something.

NORMA STANLEY: That’s interesting.

Jane Fernandes: That’s when I started to get an inkling of things going on, I didn't yet apply to me. But I understood that there are assumptions being made about people, based on attributes that we’re born with attributes human attributes and assumptions are being made about what that means. Actually, our principal. Dr john he was an African American man. He almost blew his top. We just told him what we did. And you know nowadays it would never happen, because now, they have anonymous scraping all the school they don’t see them, they just grade the paper he's very upset that what we did, and he tried to explain that, if we have some mode if about clothing something about race which really made me my friend did, but I didn’t. I didn’t have a motive that it was the wrong way to go about it. Research and go to college get a degree figure out how to work on this problem. But anyway, so that’s the reverse. Get that A that I always got it was assuming I couldn’t do something so much pity for me as a deaf person.

Nadine Vogel: Right.

Jane Fernandes: I must not be able to do it. So even then, I wasn’t doing what I was capable of doing. Whatever I was getting was based on pity and my friends with based on race. Hearing things about hearing privilege and white privilege something like that.

Nadine Vogel: Well, so I have a question, do you think that that plays into or has played into what you've created at the College, which is the edge initiatives, my understanding is the edge initiatives all but equity and things like that so how does that all relate.

Jane Fernandes: It all does relate, yes, because in the end of the day, my life is about giving access to education. Good quality education to everyone who wants to receive it. And Guilford college is a very diverse campus mixed population of students who have learning disabilities a significant population of students on the autism spectrum and wide variety of races and ethnicities. Most recently 49% of the first year class are from racial and ethnic underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. So yes, at the edge a lot of the ad was founded in equity for all students, we wanted to create more connection between the world and the classroom.

Nadine Vogel: How do you do that?

Jane Fernandes: So, one way we did, that is to create a calendar we created a three-week term, and we gave everyone in school access to a three week experience off campus. And in the past, some people might have had bad experience, but only if they could afford to pay or they could afford the time or somehow they could manage it. But most of the students couldn't afford the time or the money so they never did it. This way, we may financial resources available to everyone. And they all have experiences off campus and may not that big them an edge when they went back to class because they understood what they were learning. Liberal arts courses, for they could see the direct connection between liberal arts and real world. And with so much speculation about college degree a lot the parents don't even believe it's worth the investment that's good evidence to show that it is really worth the investment.

Nadine Vogel: Well on that note I, we do need to go to commercial break, but I know Norma that you have some burning questions so as soon as we come back, I’m going to turn it over to you to ask so stay tuned for commercial break.


Nadine Vogel: Hi this is Nadine Vogel joined by Norma Stanley my co-host on today's episode of disabled lives matter. Again, more than just a podcast, it is a movement, and let me just tell you, the world is being moved right now by Jane Fernandez. The person that we are interviewing, who is the President of Guilford college. So Norma I think you had some questions.

NORMA STANLEY: Well yeah, I mean I just love what you shared about the childhood, and I was just wondering, you know when you became an adult did you actually find it was part of your purpose to become an activist for the Deaf community. As you know, as you were pursuing becoming a building into the Education Forum and becoming a president like what you are today at Guilford college is that something that came quite a bit you wanted to become, and you know do for the Community decides what you want to do for yourself.

Jane Fernandes: Well, it started, because what I was doing for myself, for example, the first time I learned about deaf people finally the first time I learned that deaf people most deaf people sign all day it’s a visual gestural language made for them, I was in graduate school at the University of Iowa. I went to deaf clubs and I learned that I’m deaf like them, but really we're so different. And you know that we both can't hear, but we have different ways of working in our world with that. But I became fascinated with that and my understanding that really bothered with my language, if only I knew that I would have learned growing up, maybe I wouldn't have been, so I committed to activism on behalf of deaf people. Because I thought, a little bit like I was denied. The world denied me knowledge of a language that I should have known or I denied myself I don't know what, but when I learned that turned everything around and the deaf community as a whole.

NORMA STANLEY: That’s important. We were interviewing a woman this morning from the network call sign one news and there a forum or station that dedicated to making sure that the deaf community is included in the news cycle, every day, you know. Journalism and you know she was sharing how that is certainly a critical component of making sure that they get the same news, and the same way that they understand it, the way they need to hear it and communicate it and that wasn't happening, and so you know, all this innovative, you know programming that like that like Nadine was talking about edge that you guys initiative that you're working with and it takes people like us to make that happen because not everybody sees the opportunity to change or to help make change others and that's what I believe that you're trying to do with you know the programs that you're implementing.

Nadine Vogel: And Jane we're going to introduce you to the CEO. The founder and CEO of sign one news I mean the entire news station is just sign, nothing is conveyed verbally, so I mentioned you to her and I promised I was going to mention her to you. And I’m going to connect you because I think it’s important.

NORMA STANLEY: Absolutely.

Nadine Vogel: So, you know, I have a question oh go ahead, oh go ahead Jane. Ok, I have a question about you know fast forward and thinking back to your mom and everything that she did to instill this this work ethic for you educationally and to work and fight for you at a time where we did not have the laws that we have today. Whether in the education system idea or the Ada. So, as we fast forward and look at today, you know I would love to get your perspective. on how that has changed. How it's changed for not only the student or the adult with disabilities in college or working, but maybe also how you think it's changed for parents.

Jane Fernandes: It's changed a lot. I don't know, but I feel in my lifetime things for deaf people have changed profoundly. I don't know we have a sense; I have a sense that I can get a new job I’m qualified for If I’m qualified no one can say I can't have a job because I’m done right and that wasn't the case when I was 20 years old. When I was 20 years old, I was full of anxiety that I’ve would never been hired, and we were doing anything right everyone in the. room all the time because I couldn't hear it's completely change. For parents there’s alot more information now and it's a lot more neutral it's more about the parents having all the information may need to have to decide about what they want to do for their children with disabilities. Completely changed and technology of the big change as well. Because that's our communication method last level playing field exist, yes, deaf people who can read and write English, but even that's not where you are now boom. The whole time or chapter on the zoom everything about it is about access and equality.

Nadine Vogel: Right right so in the years that you have been a college President obviously people go to college to get themselves ready to become employed. So, what changes have you seen or do you still have concerns that you see about your students as they graduate getting employment.

Jane Fernandes: That is the number one priority of the students for today and for their families there's an incredible amount of pressure on the student and on college, especially on the College to show that the education we provide is practical enough to be useful in career choices. That's why the edge combines the real world, and the clash makes it clear why students go in the oil and experience, jobs and then come back and go to class metaphorically, or to man, why bed go to college. At one time, we have more of a war about death babies yeah, they would be all manual. or sun and it would never mix the two things. Spain and have that will have an implanted in them have a cochlear implant or maybe they won't. Now I think it's more about our parents knowing all the information about all the options and may decide that's best for their child and later the child can make their own decision for some of the options there. That they can always do something else if they if they wish, I don't think it will happen again remind I hope never again that someone like myself could not even know that sign language existed. And at 23 and must start. But I don't have any regrets at all worked up on.

Nadine Vogel: Right. So do you find that students do really change and switch from perhaps how they were brought up either to use sign language or not. And that through their college and life experience that you're bringing that they choose to switch for some reason or change it up in some way.

Jane Fernandes: Yes. always happen, I mean I switched from not knowing sign language. So, for years I find I’m not been good my course for years and then I came back to I can do all these things are all part of one is not better than the other doesn’t make me more deaf or less deaf. Everything is probably and I do what I want with them.

Nadine Vogel: Well, and I think that's kind of although quite different, I do think it has some similarity to a family that's bilingual or trilingual. In that they're teaching the child multiple languages and the child will determine which one becomes their primary language or that they could use all of them at some point. But actually, on that note I do want to ask the question that we have been debating and other conversations, which is why is sign language not offered at least generally speaking in undergrad you know in high school and junior high school they offer Spanish and French and why isn't sign language, a core offering for language I don't understand.

Jane Fernandes: So that is my dream. I wish, I don't know how to do it, maybe the US Department of Education would pass a bill that everyone in every public school in the US alone sign language and culture say grade 3, grade 8, grade 12. Some people will not have any money not really like it up, they will be hurt by take my beloved son with our terms with them yeah. And, but everyone would know everyone would not have to go oh, she’s deaf. Everyone wants to be a community so public schools should teach our students about that, and I often think about that. We teach French, we teach German, those aren’t American language. I don't mean to be America is the best but that's our people were speaking time right people and our times speaking an American language and have an American culture that's different than the majority and, most of us don't even know they’re there. So, to have the Community dedicated to being quality and individualism I wish that we would teach more people about that why it doesn't happen I’m not sure I’m not sure why that doesn't happen.

Nadine Vogel: Because I think.

Jane Fernandes: Deaf people I don't know the low incidence I don't know.

Nadine Vogel: The fact that it doesn't happen to me is bothersome because it undermines what we're saying that disabled lives matter. Right, no matter what the disability, because if you if you know, to me, if someone is not willing to learn how to communicate. Then they don't think you matter then they don't think you matter enough to do that and that's bothersome you know at springboard at my company as an example, our business cards my business cards are brail. And we get asked all the time, oh, you know you must have someone who works in the organization, who needs reads brail. I said no, but I never know who I’m going to meet. That doesn't need that right, it goes back to your education is it's about equity and it's about equality, and when I think people don't understand is equality to me anyway, is not about treating everyone the same. it's about giving everyone the same ability to be successful right, and I know you shaking your head, I mean, so I guess you agree with that.

Jane Fernandes: Yeah, I agree with that completely. It's not about on everyone speaking English, so does all deaf people speak English because that's what we speak here right that we have a language that the American sign language. That helps us have access to information and knowledge, and we have ways that we can use that to gain equal role in society and be engaged citizen, as everyone had the right to be and should be.

Nadine Vogel: So, I know we're about out of time, but I do have one more question and I think normal, you may have as well, which is. How have you or have you been able to use your position with your colleagues, Presidents of other colleges and universities to kind of come around. And to understand the importance of people with disabilities at their schools and for mainstreaming them within their universities have you been able to do that.

Jane Fernandes: Well, I’ve done it on a small-scale small scale, because the work that Guilford does with students who have learning disabilities and on the autism spectrum that is probably unknown not very well known, but very, very astonishing. Basically, my students are just being themselves we are not about changing anything, and we accept who they are. But we provide them support and many of them are change, they transform while they're at the school and very successful after school. But it's sort of a I don't know it's a personal or a deeply help out and it's not about making and it's not like you're making a movement right.

Nadine Vogel: Right.

Jane Fernandes: You’re good at the movement. I’m so onboard with your movement.

Nadine Vogel: So important oh my gosh. Norma, I know we’re running out of time but is there anything else you’d like to ask.

NORMA STANLEY: I was just wondering; you know if there are any corporations that may be working with some of the graduates of your school that you might want to you know anyone that you see they're really trying to include the deaf community as a look for hires, are there any companies, you might want to recognize or you know mention or you know do you get any of that attention from companies.

Jane Fernandes: I could, I have to think about that, but yes sure I can think of some corporations and companies in Greensboro North Carolina with whom I work that have been helpful in the employment. I'm on the board of industries for the Blind solutions and Winston Salem. And we work with Guilford, and I work together to provide education for blind people at the IFP and we are developing a program started with just a class one class and one of my other classes class the last day of class on her own sort of a diploma. I will now we're talking about having the students come to your admin role as. The constraints that awesome yeah. I think I could get back to you with some of the corporations.

Nadine Vogel: Right that's really important well Jane Thank you so very much. Unfortunately we are out of time this half hour I just flew. But we absolutely cannot let so much time pass this time until we speak again, I definitely am going to introduce you to Sign one TV and talk to you more about some other opportunities, so thank you, we wish you all the best. Keep going with Guilford doing great work and we will talk soon, this is Nadine Vogel signing off along with my co-host my partner in crime. Norma Stanley on Disabled Lives Matter.


Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed during the Disabled Lives Matter podcast series are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of Springboard Global Enterprises, Springboard Productions, and its employees, contractors, subsidiaries, and affiliates. The developers of the Disabled Lives Matter podcast are not responsible and do not verify for accuracy any of the information contained in the podcast series available for listening on the Podbean hosting site and/or any other associated hosting entity. The Primary purpose of this series is to educate and inform, and does not constitute disability, medical and/or other professional advise and/or service(s). This podcast is available for private, non-commercial use only. Advertising incorporated into, in association with, or targeted toward the content of this podcast, without the express approval and knowledge of the Disabled Lives Matter's site developers is forbidden. You may not edit, modify, or redistribute this podcast. The developers of the Disabled Lives Matter site assume no liability for any activities in connection with this podcast or for use of this podcast in connection with any other Website, Computer, and/or Listen Device.

39 episodes