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Deaf Children’s Language RIghts Advocate Honored

Deaf children’s language rights advocate Jodee Crace, ’84 and G-’89, was honored as Deaf Life magazine’s 2015 Deaf Person of the Year.

In September 2015, Crace was recognized as the magazine’s Deaf Person of the Month. At the end of the year, Deaf Life chose Crace from among the 12 chosen during 2015 to appear on the January 2016 cover as Deaf Person of the Year. Crace impressed the publishers as “a tireless advocate for the language rights of deaf babies and children.”

Historically, deafness has been viewed pathologically within the medical profession, but Crace has made it her objective to show families with deaf infants the benefits of learning American Sign Language (ASL) and partnering with the deaf community. Crace believes that this honor will help with her advocacy efforts.

“[This selection gives] realization and recognition that the deaf community is a rich, vibrant, and passionate community that truly believes in empowering families the minute the baby is identified as deaf,” said Crace.

Crace’s advocacy work began after attending the 2003 Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) conference, where she was appalled by the sole agenda of “fixing” deafness. Crace told Deaf Life magazine that this was an “eye-opening, career-changing moment.”

Following this experience, Crace increasingly extoled the advantages of exposing deaf children to ASL and the deaf community. She returned to the EHDI conference each year, encouraging more deaf people to make their presence felt. In 2009, Crace became involved with the American Society for Deaf Children (ASCD), which supports the families of deaf children by promoting a visual language foundation. Last year she co-chaired their annual conference.
Crace holds a B.A. in American Studies and an M.A. in School Counseling with Deaf Students. Upon graduation, Crace began her professional career as a therapist for a mental-health agency in Indianapolis, where she worked with deaf children and their families. From 1992 to 2013 she performed several counseling roles in a position at the Indiana School for the Deaf, her high school alma mater.

Since 2012, Crace has co-taught two courses for Gallaudet’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infants, Toddlers, and Families: Collaboration and Leadership Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate Program. In 2013, Crace transitioned from full-time counseling to contractual work with Indiana’s Center of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education, where she mentor’s families with deaf infants and toddlers.

Those recognized by Deaf Life in 2015 as Deaf Person of the Month include:

  • January: Julie Rems-Smario, founding executive director of DeafHope
  • February: Amy J. Novotny, ’99 and G-’02, director of Rocky Mountain Deaf School
  • March: Jonathan Lamberton, ’99, certified deaf interpreter
  • April: Antony McLetchie, ’92, superintendent of the Rochester School for the Deaf
  • May: Trudy Suggs, ’95, journalist, advocate, and entrepreneur
  • June: Leah Katz-Hernandez, ’10, receptionist of the White House’s West Wing
  • July: Joseph Wheeler, ASL teacher and ASL THAT!
  • August: David J. Kurs, ’98, artistic director of Deaf West Theatre
  • September: Jodee Crace, ’84 and G-’89, deaf children’s language rights advocate
  • October: Martin P. Keller, Jr., PhD ’08, superintendent of the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind
  • November: Roberta “Bobbi” Cordano, president of Gallaudet University
  • December: Paula Busanic, ’94, protest leader against language policies at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf

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