Last spring, The Learning Center for the Deaf (TLC) was the recipient of a $3,000 grant for high school voter registration awareness. Initially, TLC was hoping this grant would allow students to visit city halls to see the process for voting, and registering to vote, in Massachusetts.
Since COVID-19, living and learning has largely shifted to a remote environment, and safety guidelines have been put into place. Therefore, TLC has shifted its focus for utilization of the grant, partnering with SignVote to educate secondary students.
SignVote began in 2016 and is a national campaign whose mission is to educate Deaf and hard of hearing citizens about the voting process and how to register to vote through awareness campaigns and resources in American Sign Language.
Middle school and high school students participated in several Zoom meetings with SignVote. The organization also hosted a separate meeting for students age 17 and older (those who are legally able to register in MA).
Leila Hanaumi, Strategic Engagement Director for SignVote at Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), provided a virtual workshop about voting to the Middle and High School students at TLC. She discussed topics such as voting rights amendments, examples of potential voter suppression tactics, and the American Disability Act (ADA) and how it affects Deaf people’s accessibility to the ballot. Students were eager to follow SignVote’s example to advocate for their present and future ballot access to make their voices heard.
Eighth grade students at TLC who are taking civics spent time learning about political parties and voting. The students completed a citizenship unit, learned how political parties are organized, how the candidates are selected, and about elections.
TLC students and staff also participated in a mock election hosted by the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School in Washington, D.C.
After wrapping up workshops with SignVote, TLC students who are 18 or older will receive a SignVote T-shirt in the mail.