Advocating for the Deaf in Mexico
It started with a good deed and
led to opportunity to educate and promote issues for the Deaf in Mexico.
In the fall of 2015, Tom Cox,
program coordinator for American Sign Language (ASL) and Interpreting at San
Antonio College received a message on Facebook from a friend who is an
interpreter in Mexico. His friend, Neftali Garcia, wanted to see if Cox knew of
any organizations in the United States that could donate funds to purchase
technology needed for outreach to parts of Mexico that had no services for Deaf
“I told him I didn’t know of any organizations but my students
at the time decided to take this on as a fundraiser,” explained Cox.
Throughout the fall semester, the students worked on raising
money using a Go Fund Me account and collecting donations in the Loftin Student
Center. The Connection Club, a student organization, and River City
Interpreters for the Deaf donated money as well. By the end of the semester,
more than $3,000 was raised and Cox was able to get several pieces of equipment,
including a MacBook Air laptop, a Go Pro camera, and a projector.
During the winter break, Cox was able to meet with Garcia in
Quintana Roo, Mexico and give him the much needed – and much appreciated –
donation. But that was not the end of the story. The two kept in contact and Garcia
would eventually extend an invitation to Cox to visit Monterrey, Mexico.
“Neftali also does a lot of work in
Monterrey including work with the American consulate there,” said Cox. He added
that Garcia wanted to introduce him to Jeffery Lodermeier, who worked at the
consulate and was an advocate for the Deaf in Mexico.
Lodermeier was organizing a program
at the consulate on Deaf rights and the rights of Deaf children to have access
to education in Mexican Sign Language (LSM). The consulate would host Leah
Katz-Hernandez, a Deaf woman who was the receptionist at the Oval Office under
President Obama as a speaker at the event. An invitation was sent to Cox to
attend the program.
In addition, Garcia wanted Cox to
teach a few in-service workshops for interpreters in Mexico.
To help sponsor his visit to
Mexico, Cox reached out to Carol Fimmen, with Alamo College’s International
Programs office. Fimmen agreed if Cox would be an ambassador for the District’s
Becalos program while in Monterrey. The Becalos program offers an opportunity
for students to expand their education through an international student
It would be a very busy trip to
For three nights, Cox taught a
workshop to Mexican interpreters on classifiers – a grammatical feature in both
ASL and LSM. Cox explained that, although ASL and LSM are different languages
and use different signs, classifiers are independent from vocabulary and work
in either language.
Cox also went to the UTE – Universidad Tecnológica General Mariano
Escobedo campus in Monterrey twice to meet with students who wanted to
study in the Becalos program this fall. He presented information on the program
and met with college administrators afterwards.
The main event however, was the
program sponsored by the American consulate on Deaf rights. Cox attended the
event and prepared to sit with students from his workshop. When he arrived he
was surprised to find he would actually be on stage with a panel that included
Katz-Herandez and Lodermeier.
What caught Cox’s attention during
the discussion on Deaf rights in Mexico was the use of several languages
“There were interpreters there
working between ASL, LSM, and spoken Spanish,” recalled Cox. “Leah used ASL and a Deaf interpreter from Mexico
City was then translating Leah’s signs into LSM. Then another interpreter
watching him would translate LSM into spoken Spanish.”
Looking back, Cox said the experience was exciting and
exhausting, and it left him with a new insight into the differences in services
for the Deaf between Mexico and the US.
“There are people in Mexico that have no access to education
and interpreting services. The other thing I found out was that there is not a
very formal process for people learning to be qualified interpreters in Mexico
between Spanish and Mexican Sign Language,” said Cox.
Still there are signs that things may eventually change. Cox
learned there is a Mexican organization interested in offering bilingual
education for Deaf adults who want to learn to read and write in English. He said
he would gladly go to help with the literacy training.
"I hope I have the opportunity to go back," said Cox.
|SAC Professor Tom Cox (back row, fourth from left) with members of a Monterrey, Mexico workshop.
“I hope I have the opportunity to go back,” said Cox.