Yael T. Abouhalkah

Deaf people and a Kansas congressman? Yes, it’s funny

Updated: 2013-12-18T00:35:02Z

By Yael T. Abouhalkah

The Kansas City Star

U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder represents Johnson County, home of the Kansas School for the Deaf in Olathe. So it’s not surprising the conservative Republican has helped form the Congressional Deaf Caucus.

And at the inaugural meeting late last week, the caucus actually got a bit of national attention, thanks to the recent flap over the fake interpreter who appeared at a memorial for former South African President Nelson Mandela.

As he talked to the crowd, Yoder stopped and said:

“Do I need to double-check, though, that the sign language interpreter actually is an interpreter?” Yoder turned to the interpreter standing next to him, saying, “Looks like she’s legit. Okay. If she starts just making stuff up let me know.”

The Washington Post reported, “People in the crowd roared — and some who are deaf raised their hands and shook them to signal laughter.”

Of course, mentioning deaf people and Congress in the same line has a certain amount of humor about it.

Many Americans think Congress is deaf to their interests, ignoring the little people while raking in contributions from corporations and rewarding them for donating all that money.

In his newsletter this week, Yoder reported that he hoped the caucus would help Congress become more aware of the challenges facing deaf people.

Yoder’s interest isn’t a one-time shot. One of his first interns was a deaf college student who participated in video that centered on the possibilities of making Congress more open to helping deaf persons.

The congressman gets a lot of deserved criticism for his views on many policies, which align too often with the tea party and not the more progressive people of Johnson and Wyandotte counties.

But Yoder deserves some praise for his efforts to reach out to the deaf community, as long as his policies continue to help fund projects that are important to them, in Kansas as well as around the nation.

To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/YaelTAbouhalkah.

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