James Weckend enjoys finding new ways to be a better father to his four-year-old daughter, just like most parents. The only difference is Weckend and his daughter communicate using American Sign Language, because Weckend is deaf.
“ASL is a true language; it’s not signed English. We can communicate like anyone else,” said Weckend.
Weckend uses the Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre to get support, specifically on parenting and improving his daughter’s sign language through lessons from Susanne Harnden, community outreach worker.
“Susanne is able to do the actual teaching of sign language adapted to the child, and help me and support me in terms of how to do that,” said Weckend. “And it gives me creative ideas in terms of how to approach my daughter and how to use the sign language and incorporate that into her life as well.”
While Weckend is the only deaf person in his family, he said they all are able to sign, so communication is not a problem.
Over his life, people outside his family have also been inspired to learn sign language because of Weckend, including neighbourhood kids and their parents when he was a child.
“All those kids were learning sign language as my parents were learning sign language and teaching me sign language,” said Weckend.
Weckend grew up in Victoria, where he also took all of his schooling, except for two years of high school, which he did in Vancouver at an integrated program for deaf and hearing children.
“I’d be there for the week then come home on the weekends,” said Weckend. After two years, he decided to return to Victoria to an integrated program at Belmont Secondary School.
“There was an interpreter present in the classroom,” said Weckend.
Now Weckend works at Thrifty Foods, where he has been for the last 16 years.
Besides talking on the phone, Weckend said there really isn’t anything he can’t do.
“Technology has made it very much a level playing field,” said Weckend. “We can text, we can email from our devices, and now, of course, we have Facetime.”
Weckend said he is still in contact with a variety of friends, both deaf and hearing. He said his friends are often surprised at how well his daughter can communicate using ASL.
“My friends do sign well, but because they’re not with me all the time, they’re not getting that exposure and my daughter of course is,” said Weckend. “So now she’s starting to teach my friends too; it’s really cool.”
Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre provides support for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to make them equal in their community, said Lundie Russell, coordinator of IDHHC’s family and community program.
“We’re the only agency on the Island that provides the services we do to the deaf and hard of hearing community,” said Russell.
Being a non-profit agency, IDHHC relies on donations to keep running. Coming up in November is IDHHC’s only fundraiser, Big Band Bash, which is a concert consisting of swing and jazz music and dancing.
“It’s a night out for people to enjoy some really good, live music,” said Russell. There will also be a silent auction and a live auction.
“Last year was really successful, so we’re hoping this year will be just as successful if not more,” said Russell. This is Big Band Bash’s seventh year.
Big Band Bash is on Nov. 4 from 7 to 11 p.m. At Our Lady of Fatima Portugese Hall at 4635 Elk Lake Drive. Tickets are $40 in advance and $50 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at Larsen Music, 1833 Cook St.