On October 6, 2018 RP Funding Center was visited by an estimated 1,100 people attending the Deaf Expo; otherwise known as, “It’s a Deaf Thing.”
“It's A Deaf Thing” was designed to celebrate Deaf culture and community. According to Project Deaf, it is estimated that 200,000 Floridians are Deaf. This event provides those individuals and their friends and family with opportunities to learn about services, to share experiences, and to enjoy art and entertainment. The event included business vendors, artists, service agencies and performances by members of the Deaf community.
The City of Lakeland was also there, with an information table staffed by ADA Specialist Jenny Sykes and Officer Mathers of the Lakeland Police Department. According to many attendees and the organizers of the event, Officer Mathers was one of the most popular people there.
In addition to his work with the Lakeland Police Department, Officer Mathers is a certified Sign Language interpreter. Throughout the event Officer Mathers rarely stopped Signing. This was because many people wanted to communicate with him! This included a little boy who looked very happy to be Signing with a police officer, teenagers who stopped to ask why Officer Mathers had decided to study Sign Language, people interested in going into law enforcement and many others who stopped to ask questions about interactions between law enforcement and individuals who are Deaf. In addition, countless people stopped to express appreciation that the City of Lakeland has an officer who Signs, and that the City is actively working on enhancing accessibility of programs and services.
According to David Lind, President of ProjectDEAF, “It’s a Deaf Thing” is the only known event of its kind in the state of Florida. If you’d like to learn more about ProjectDEAF go to their website at https://projectdeaf.com/ or email Terry.Hunt@itsadeafthing.com