After a break in service due to committee issues, the Deaf Gay and Lesbian Association (DGLA) of NSW is back in operation with a renewed focus for 2011.

The Association has plans for a unique entry into the Mardi Gras Parade, and will hold workshops during the year for deaf people looking to utilise the communicative aspects of newer technology.

DGLA secretary Stephen Lord told the Star Observer there was a mood of excitement for the future at the Association.

“We’ve decided it is the year of inclusion for us as a GLBTQ community group,” Lord said.

“In past years, if you were older or disabled or vision-impaired, it was near impossible to be included in the Mardi Gras Parade due to the nature of having to walk for around two hours. This year will be different — we are going to have a mini-bus for those who choose to use it and join in the fun.”

The DGLA’s planned Parade float is an ambitious, multi-sensory experience designed to give bystanders some understanding of what life is like for deaf people. The theme of the float, See The World Through Deaf Eyes, reflects DGLA’s focus on the positives of deaf life — the more acute sense of smell, sensitivity to noise vibration and heightened range of vision common to many deaf people.

“We will use spray containers with different scents like chocolate, vanilla, orange, lemon and lime. We will also be asking volunteers along the parade to teach the audience to sign applause by shaking the hands rather than clapping, and our surprise backpack puppets will teach people how to say ‘I love you’ in sign.”

Deaf Finnish rapper SignMark, popular among the hearing-impaired as his music resonates at a frequency that can be heard or felt, has given permission for his music to be played from the float.

After the excitement of Mardi Gras, DGLA will focus on holding technology-based workshops throughout the year. With older deaf communication methods like TTY (a phone/typewriter system) fast becoming outmoded, Lord said some less tech-savvy deaf people were being left behind.

“The internet is a boon for communication, allowing deaf people to use a webcam to communicate directly in our native language, Auslan. DGLA NSW is planning these workshops to upskill deaf gay and lesbians and our straight friends who want to learn how to use the internet and, most importantly, how to use it safely.”

DGLA always welcomes new members, both the hearing-impaired and their friends and supporters.

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