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Advocating for the Deaf…

Tom Cox, program coordinator for American Sign Language and Interpreting, takes a busy trip to educate and promote access for the Deaf in Mexico.
Tom Cox in Mexico

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 people.

“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.

Tom Cox and Katz-Hernandez captionedLodermeier 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 exchange program.

It would be a very busy trip to Monterrey.

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 simultaneously.

“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. 

 Tom Cox in Mexico Workshop
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.