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The Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Postcard photo by Aaron Cohen/CMHR
photo by Aaron Cohen/CMHR

Just as I am

Joanna Hawkins knows well the barriers that exist in the world.

Deaf since age three, the American Sign Language teacher and actress signs in videos played throughout the Canadian Museum for Human Rights—a place close to her heart.

“[The CMHR] makes me think that every individual deserves respect,” says Hawkins [BFA/09, PB DipEd/14].

She also performs with her all-deaf mime troupe, 100 Decibels, at this national museum that recently won the Gold Award from the International Association for Universal Design for helping build an inclusive world.

Hawkins lost her hearing to an ear infection before emigrating to Canada from Lodz, Poland, to join her parents—who are also both deaf.

“We are not disabled. We do not want pity or help from anyone thinking the Deaf can’t do.”

She regularly debunks myths, like sign language is not a real language (some countries have even deemed various forms an official language) and is universal (there are in fact 300 sign languages globally).

No, her daughter is not deaf. Deafness passes from parent to child only 10 per cent of the time. And not everyone seeks cochlear implants.

“[Some people] don’t realize that many of us accept who we are.”

© University of Manitoba • Winnipeg, Manitoba • Canada • R3T 2N2

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