All-Slovenian volunteer campaign, which connects, stares down the fear and breaks stereotypes, unified the two worlds: the world of the deaf and the world of the hearing. Deaf persons have shown that they are here, that they are able to work and be equally included in society, and the hearing experienced the culture of the deaf. They excitedly expected action, since they didn’t exactly knew what awaited them. The motto of the campaign, to be inclusive, reflected at every step of the way.
A whole year passed from an idea to the campaign realization. At the pilot training of mountaineering for persons with special needs, Miloš Ganić said during a break that the deaf could serve guests in mountain lodges. Later in the evening, suggestions for suitable locations were on the table. After the first meeting of the working group for the elaboration, composed of the hearing, the deaf and an interpreter, the campaign started to be formed. We designed, together with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Clubs Association, who took over awareness-raising via media.
In early September, volunteers attended a one-day relaxed and playful training. Also, the mountain lodges staff attended the training by the use of sign language. Some took the challenge very seriously and fluently gesturing everything on the menu.
On Saturday, 22 September at 10.30, a gala opening of the campaign took place with a touch of homeliness and excitement at selected locations. Every speaker added his own touch. The feeling that the next two days will be really special was the right one. The event has exceeded everyone’s expectations. It was not only about serving the guests, the volunteers included animation, presented the way of life of the deaf and sign language. They worked enthusiastically, conscientiously and responsibly. They used their ingenuity and adapted to changes. Everyone in the group made his own contribution to the success of the events on the Saturday and Sunday.
Cooperation had been in the foreground, the key was mutual assistance, even though the work was distributed. Three volunteers were serving guests, two of them handled the animation and taught the sign language. They also provided the accompanying programme. There were gestures of the Slovenian sign language shown on the posters. They published a notice about a photo competition Inclusive in the mountains and raise the awareness on the International Day of Sign Languages.
The mountain lodges smelled like tea, familiarity and mountain relaxation. The most important was the conversation between the hearing and the deaf. After the first uncertain attempts, they were encouraged and approached the guests with a smile and a friendly gesture to welcome them. There were many deaf visitors, who were excited to make orders in sign language. They felt at home and accepted. They were relaxed and no one was sitting at the table lonely. Some of them visited the mountain lodge for the first time only because of the campaign and took the mountain trails because they were curious how to communicate in sign language.
Two interpreters made sure that communication was running smoothly. They approached if anyone’s communication got stuck. Visitors were interested in particular in how to order in sign language. They also asked about the life of the deaf. Kids were asking them why they can’t hear anything, how one becomes deaf and whether it can be fixed. The smaller kids were training their fingers with sign language, and bigger kids also with the one-hand alphabet. They quickly learned the gestures and were asking their parents if they knew what a certain gesture meant. At the table, they themselves tried to use a one-hand alphabet, they were really interested in it all.
Visitors had a communication roller waiting for them at the tables. If they put the blue colour upwards, they wanted to order or pay. When received their order, they placed the roller horizontally on the table for sending the message: “I’m enjoying it.” One of the guests suggested that such a roller would be needed in other restaurants, too.
Thanks to everyone who supported us.
Jurček Nowakk (email@example.com), a Working group ‘Mountaineering for persons with special needs’ at the Alpine Association of Slovenia