Deaf world traveler inspires at ISD

From the Jacksonville Journal-Courier
By Bre Linstromberg Copper -  

Joel Barish, co-founder of DeafNation at ISD in Jacksonville, IL

Bre Linstromberg Copper | Journal-Courier

Students and staff at the Illinois School for the Deaf were visited on Wednesday by Joel Barish, a celebrity in the international deaf community, a world traveler, and co-founder of DeafNation, a website that provides video, news, and social content for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Barish, who is pictured telling the students about the size of an ostrich egg, spoke about his travels and encouraged the students to pursue their individual ambitions

Students and staff at the Illinois School for the Deaf were treated Wednesday to a visit from a celebrity in the international deaf community. Joel Barish, co-founder of DeafNation, a website offering video, news, and social content for the deaf and hard of hearing, and host of his own travel documentary series, "No Barriers with Joel Barish," presented two talks on the ISD campus. "I love travel and I wanted to share. I looked at the Travel Channel and they go to different countries and explain things and I thought, 'Well, maybe we could do the same thing,'" Barish told the students. "I travel the world with my video camera just like hearing people who travel the world and get news. I thought that would be great to do that for deaf people. I have been to 79 different countries and I interview deaf people in those countries." The presentation included a slide show of photographs showing Barish eating octopus in Taiwan, posing with a deaf native next to whale rib bones in Alaska; smiling with students in Ethiopia; and standing with his deaf host in a boat near an iceberg in Greenland. Barish uses the photographs and stories from his travels to impart a deeper message to deaf and hard of hearing children.

"A lot of times deaf people do not realize what deaf people in other parts of the world are doing," Barish told the audience. "Deaf people can do anything. Maybe you want to be a doctor, maybe you want to have your own business - I encourage you to do that. You can do this!" That message was encouraging to Makayla Leverich, a freshmen at ISD who previously attended school in Pittsfield. "When I was younger I told people I wanted to become a teacher and I remember telling one person and they told me I couldn't do that because I'm deaf," she said following Barish's presentation. "(Now) I think about being a lawyer one day. People tell me I can't because I'm deaf, but I want to prove them wrong. I can. I know I can."

Rajonne Townsell, a senior at ISD, and of Jacksonville, was also inspired by Barish's adventures. "I was addicted from the start (of the presentation). I learned so much in just, like, 40 minutes. I love learning new things and it was very educational," he said. "(Deaf people) do feel like we can't do some things, but really we can do anything. There is a stereotype that deaf people can't read. At first, I struggled to read, but I have overcome that. I read and read everyday and finally I'm on my grade level and I'm proud of that. So, deaf people can read." "People always say deaf people can't do things," agreed Leverich, "but (Barish) says deaf people can do anything and he can prove it."

Charles Hicks, an ISD high school teacher, attended college at Gallaudet University with Barish and was also in attendance for Barish's presentation Wednesday afternoon. "Here and right now, our goal is to tell our deaf students that they can succeed at anything they want. They can do it. It can start with adults. (Barish) is starting with adults and showing (children), look, if they can do it, you can too. (Barish, himself) is a good role model and he's showing how he has succeeded and how people all over the world have succeeded," said Hicks. "We have to remove that barrier of "can't."