DeafLEAD works to be a helping hand

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COLUMBIA - According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, people with disabilities are three times more likely to be victims of a violent crime than people without them.

DeafLEAD is working to combat that statistic and be a helping hand for the deaf community and the world around them.

The non-profit organization, formally known as the LEAD Institute, works with people who are Deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened or DeafBlind and who have been victims of crimes. 

There are a range of crimes that go into their work including domestic violence, sexual violence and child abuse.

Some victims are targeted specifically because of their disability...

Dr. Stephanie Logan, the Executive Director of DeafLEAD, believes people with disabilities, specifically those who are deaf, are more vulnerable. 

"Specifically when talking about deaf individuals, you have the communication difference.  As a deaf individual being able to communicate with someone is very, very difficult."

The vulnerability can start young.  About 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents.

"Often times those hearing parents do not learn sign language to communicate with their child, which they should, but they often don't," Dr. Logan said.

A former intern with DeafLEAD believes that knowing ASL as a hearing person is an opportunity to be an ally in times of need.

"By learning, you immerse yourself in the culture of the Deaf community. While I still have much more to learn, I would feel comfortable intervening in a situation where an individual who was Deaf or hard or hearing wasn’t being understood properly due to the communication barrier," Cole Lawson said through email.

DeafLEAD will offer classes to teach American Sign Language.  Dr. Logan hopes that the classes will help to cultivate better communication within the Columbia community.

"I think taking an American Sign Language class can be incredibly valuable to individuals not only learning about another culture, the deaf community, but also learning another language," Dr. Logan said.  

ASL is the fourth most used language in the United States.

Beginning classes will start January 23 and advanced classes will start January 25.  Both classes are offered for eight weeks and cost $100.