I’m here in San Diego, California! This is DawnSignPress, who just
celebrated their 40th anniversary. They are the top provider of ASL
instructional resources and also features ASL/Deaf culture.
There are over 80 titles. I’m here with Tina Jo Breindel and Joe Dannis, the owners of DawnSignPress (DSP), who are now celebrating 40 years. What a milestone. You’re a couple and also business partners. How did you both meet? Can you explain that? I have to thank Gallaudet, out of all places, it’s Gallaudet. It was during DPN (Deaf President Now). I worked at Gallaudet that time. I bumped into him again and
again and we just clicked. Thanks to Gallaudet! Yes, we met during the protest,
and would get together. We marched to the Mayflower together. We were inseparable the whole week. As a couple, how did it influence DSP
as an organization and its expansion? I see a lot of him. That’s nice. He’s my partner in crime. We overlap each other. He is the force of the business. I have my strengths. I’m good in specific areas. I see that she is good at other areas
and we overlap each other. It’s the same with our other staff.
They are good at various areas. It takes a team. You can’t do it by yourself or with
only two or three people. When a team works together and overlap
each other, it becomes very strong. I’m with Ken Mikos, who is one of three
authors of the “Signing Naturally” textbooks …the ASL curriculum that is widespread. Can you tell us about you three: you,
Ella Mae Lentz, and Cheri Smith? Smith is a CODA, Lentz is Deaf,
and you are also Deaf. How did you three collaborate
and develop the curriculum? We make a good team. We worked together at Vista College.
That’s where it started. We applied for and received a two-year grant. As we were developing it,
we brought in experts such as Dr. Carol Padden, Dr. Ted Supalla,
and others, who provided advice. We filmed multiple Deaf people and how they signed. We documented it, and remember
that we were working with VHS at the time. We collected data and language samples. We put it all together and wrote it. We did test runs with 12 different colleges. After everything went well,
we completed it in 1987. We reached out to DawnSignPress because
we wanted a Deaf company to publish it. It was our core belief to support a Deaf business. That’s how it got started and it has been successful. When it was released, it became very popular. There was high demand and it
made teachers’ jobs easier because there was a curriculum
provided in their hands. I remember when there was no concept of ASL. It was a dirty word. People would react negatively to it
and say “sign language” instead. In the 60’s and 70’s, there were only vocabulary books, but for sentences, grammar, structure… when ASL was recognized as a language, we could be proud of our culture. In the past we felt inferior. My father used to say, “Deaf people are no good.” That was in the 1920’s, 1930’s. Today, Deaf people can! We sold over one million books, so it’s widespread. I’m really thrilled that more
people are aware than before. What kind of responsibility do you you two feel, that you are the ones that are leading and creating what influences how others learn
our language and culture? It’s not just learning ASL, but preserving it, and also about Deaf culture,
what it means to be Deaf. It’s more about Deaf life,
Deaf art, Deaf poetry, and the like. There is more awareness. If a book is not projected to sell many
copies or generate revenue, but there is a need, we will produce it. We will produce the best quality regardless. We look for the best people in the Deaf field. The best artists, the best writers, for a specific topic. We want to create it with the highest quality. As we look back on 40 years, let’s
instead look forward 40 years in the future. What do you see? Martha’s Vineyard… reborn! Where everybody can sign and communicate. Where communication barriers are no longer barriers. Again, the internet will make ASL more powerful and those teaching ASL will spread it. When there is more awareness, there is more
respect and understanding of our culture. I’m here at Broadway Pier! I’m surrounded by water. It’s nice with boats passing by. DSP is hosting a 40th anniversary celebration gala that coincides with the ASLTA
convention’s closing ceremonies. People are coming here to mingle.
I’ll go inside and do interviews. Can you share your insights on
when you realized how big DSP is? I’ve lived here for about 8 years before
I started working at DSP. Prior to that I didn’t realize there was a
large Deaf-owned, Deaf-run company in our backyard in San Diego. I didn’t realize it until I applied for a
job and showed up for an interview. I was like, “Wow! It’s a complete brick-and-mortar building with its own staff and everything.” It’s a legit Deaf business! You use the “Signing Naturally” curriculum.
How has it reinforced your teaching? It’s a big help. Without it I would have to
come up with things, which consumes time. I have a guide, which is very beneficial. It helps teachers and students to go
on a path towards success with ASL. In time, it will benefit the Deaf community with interpreting services and other things. There’s this connection and it’s very nice. Do you have any stories of your students
turning into success stories? Do you want to share it? Yes, sure. So, we have one student who graduated
and went on to Gallaudet University as an undergraduate student and completed
their interpreting program. Then she became an interpreter for Michelle Obama. That was really cool. She was called the “Michelle Obama girl.” Another example is with Madonna at a concert.
She interpreted for her. DSP is a Deaf-owned business and a big one. Yes! What is your view on the role DSP
plays in the Deaf ecosystem? A huge role. I don’t think people realize
how huge of a company DSP is. It generates many jobs internally with many employees and it also makes it possible for many ASL
teachers to have jobs with the right curriculum. I also know of many who have developed their
own content, books, stories, and even films, using DSP’s services.
So DSP also provides those people with jobs. DSP is really a big part of our ecosystem. The curriculum… did it benefit you as a teacher? Absolutely. When I open up the curriculum, it provides me with activities that
I provide to the students. I’m able to provide feedback, coaching,
and facilitate discussions. Students are paired up, converse with
each other, and tell stories. My favorite part is the stories. What is your view on the role DSP holds in ASL instruction, ASL curriculum, or supporting Deaf professionals? A big role. They’ve always been a big role. The “Signing Naturally” curriculum is
widespread and DSP was behind it. There has been more and more conferences
and DSP has sponsored them. I think that’s important, to show
Deaf supporting Deaf events. I’m sure they will keep on developing new materials. This (ASL) dictionary is one of them. I’m developing it and working with people who recognize the importance of ASL,
Deaf culture, and Deaf studies. I think that’s important. Maybe Deaf history as well.
I think it’s lovely. Why is it important to have Deaf people
take the lead, to have Deaf products? Here is my story. In 1998, during that time, going back to the 1990’s, ASL classes, teachers, and instruction of language — there was no direction. It was scattered. There was no uniformity. One day my father was driving me up to Sacramento. He said, “I want you to meet your half sister.” I had never met her. At the time I wanted to go into UC Davis. My father said she took two sign language classes. He seemed to be proud that she knew sign language. But in my mind, I rolled my eyes. What does that mean? It meant nothing. Just two classes. But I said, “Oh, okay.” When we arrived and we met, I was expecting her to incorrectly fingerspell “hi”
or make multiple errors. But I saw that she had NMS and showed specific facial expressions as she said, “Do you like this or that?” I was blown away. Just two classes, two semesters? I asked, “Who is your teacher?” It was Ella Lentz. That time, her activism… she must
be doing something right. It takes a team. Can it just be myself or the two of us? No, it takes a team. Do you remember when there was an
earthquake and the building shook? We checked if everybody was okay. Thank you all for coming,
and thank you for teaching. I love you all.