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SBCC Faculty Lecture ‘Redefining Deaf: From Myths and Misconceptions to Identity’

Ignacio Ponce
Is Deafness a disability or a culture? Learn more about the myths and misconceptions surrounding Deafness on Thursday, April 2, when SBCC Associate Professor Ignacio Ponce presents the 41st Annual Faculty Lecture at 2:30 p.m. in the Garvin Theatre.

Ponce, who teaches American Sign Language (ASL) at SBCC, will share the history of the Deaf community and the development of ASL through the years. By introducing such topics as “Deafhood” and “Deaf Gain” — new terms being touted as the opposite of “hearing loss” — he will serve to broaden and enrich the ways in which Deafness is perceived. He will also challenge the audience to think of Deaf people not as a disabled group, but as a linguistic minority with its own language, culture and history.

When asked what he’d like people come away with from his lecture, Ponce replied, “I would like people to leave with a different perspective on the experience of being Deaf. At the beginning of each introductory class, I ask students what the word deaf means to them. Ninety-nine percent of the time the answer is ‘can’t hear,’ ‘can’t talk, ’ ‘can’t this’ and ‘can’t that.’ For most of us Deaf people these things rarely cross our minds. We focus on what we can do, rather than living our lives focusing on what we can’t do.” 

Ponce attended Los Angeles Trade Technical College where he claims he “actually started growing up” and found his identity. From there he transferred to California State University, Northridge (CSUN), with the newly-found curiosity of exploring his identity as a Deaf person more fully. While at CSUN he was given the “Flame of the Future Award” for “exemplifying the spirit of harmony between Deaf and Hearing people.” After he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Deaf Studies, he transferred to Gallaudet University, where he received his master’s degree in Sign Language Education. He also completed a post baccalaureate certificate in Rehabilitation Administration at San Diego State University.

While working in the nonprofit field for several years, Ignacio found himself advocating and educating people about the Deaf experience and dispelling myths and misconceptions about the Deaf community.

Ponce has been with SBCC for 13 years, during which time he developed or redesigned all of the ASL classes and developed the associate degree in ASL. Every summer he directs the popular ASL Summer Immersion Institute, where scores of students immerse themselves for three days in the world of Deaf culture, communicating exclusively in ASL. In 2011, he was the recipient for the John W. Rice Diversity and Equity Award.

Fellow members of faculty, staff and students participated in the process that led to Ponce being selected as this year’s faculty lecturer, the highest honor bestowed on an SBCC faculty member. He is respected by his colleagues for his teaching excellence, his contributions to the department, his involvement on campus and the local community, and for having “exceeded all expectations.” His students have this to say: “He is a terrific teacher” who is “enthusiastic and motivated,” “patient” and "passionate about his work.”
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