All posts by Kathy Johncox

Kathy is the editor and writer for Parent News. She is a Communications, Marketing & Multimedia Services Specialist at RIT/NTID.

RIT’s NTID Performing Arts presents August Wilson’s ‘Fences,’ April 11-14

Dark background with African American baseball player, ball field and text August Wilson's Fences.

Fences, the American play written by August Wilson, will be presented next month by the Performing Arts department of Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Shows will run at 7:30 p.m. April 11-13, and 2 p.m. April 14, in Panara Theatre, Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall, on the RIT campus.

In this production, as with all RIT/NTID Performing Arts shows, deaf actors will use American Sign Language and hearing actors will use spoken English to present the story. This rendition of Fences is the first deaf black production of the play.

The drama takes place in 1950s Philadelphia and features Troy Maxson, a former star of the Negro baseball leagues now working as a garbage man. As a black man, Maxson was excluded from the major leagues during his prime and his bitterness takes a toll on his relationships with his wife and son, who now wants his own chance to play ball.

Tickets - $5 for students, youth and senior citizens (60+), $10 for RIT faculty/staff/alumni and $12 for the general public – are available at the RIT University Arenas box office, by calling 585-475-4121 (voice), online at, or by email at

RIT/NTID to expand education and training through DeafTEC Resource Center

front of LBJ Hall/NTID at dusk.

The National Science Foundation has awarded $1.65 million to DeafTEC: Technological Education Center for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students, which will be used to transition the program into a resource center.

The goal of the DeafTEC Resource Center is to increase the number of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in highly skilled technician jobs in which there continues to be underrepresentation and underutilization of such individuals in the workplace.

Originally funded in 2011 for four years and renewed for four more years in 2015, DeafTEC is housed at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), one of nine colleges of Rochester Institute of Technology.

“For the third time, the National Science Foundation has recognized NTID’s DeafTEC program and its commitment to diversifying the technical workforce by increasing the participation of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in STEM fields,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “NTID and our partners are uniquely suited to increase professional development opportunities in these fields, expand STEM-related online resources and curricula, and model inclusivity for other STEM efforts.”

The DeafTEC Resource Center builds on and utilizes materials and networking that has been developed as part of the DeafTEC National Center. The DeafTEC Resource Center will:

  • Leverage partnerships to broaden professional development opportunities on-site and online for high school teachers, community college faculty, and employers to improve access to learning and technician employment for deaf and hard-of-hearing students;
  • Expand, enhance, and broadly disseminate DeafTEC’s online resources and curricula available through its websites that serve as a clearinghouse for information related to technical education and technician careers for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and a national resource for teaching student veterans with hearing loss;
  • Collaborate with and provide mentoring for prospective researchers, project developers and current projects and centers on creating inclusive environments for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and military veteran students with hearing loss.

DeafTEC’s innovative approach provides deaf and hard-of-hearing students access to career and educational resources specifically designed to meet the challenges they face in school and on the job. DeafTEC is transforming career attainment of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals so they have greater representation in highly skilled technician careers. Hearing loss, one of the most common disabilities in the military, also can have a significant impact on the veteran’s learning and ability to connect and communicate with others. To address the unique needs of military veterans, DeafTEC provides resources for community colleges to improve access to learning and accommodations for this population.

People with disabilities continue to be employed at rates much lower than the rest of the population. This lower employment rate is especially true of Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing. Data from 2016 shows that approximately 54 percent of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals age 25-64 participated in the labor force, compared to approximately 78 percent of hearing individuals. College graduation can provide major economic benefits for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who earn 2.6 times more than non-college graduates. Being employed in STEM provides an even greater benefit, since deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in STEM occupations earn 34 percent more than their counterparts in non-STEM fields.

DeafTEC plans to broaden participation in STEM technician careers for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals by providing them, as well as their teachers, counselors, employers, and co-workers, with resources that will help them succeed both in the classroom and on the job. More deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in the workplace, particularly in highly skilled technician careers, leads to the creation of a more diverse workforce and increased acceptance of such individuals who continue to be underrepresented in technical fields. The center's resources on universal design, developmental math, and writing across the STEM curriculum can benefit all students in need of additional resources and support.

“I’m so pleased that RIT has received this significant grant, which will help support their dedicated efforts to create a more diverse and accepting workforce,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Morelle. “This will further cement RIT’s reputation as a global leader in providing innovative services to help deaf and hard-of-hearing students reach their full potential. Investments like this are essential to fostering a more accessible and inclusive society for all people, and I thank NSF for their support.”

RIT/NTID’s Sunshine 2.0 to perform as part of ‘Icons and Inspirations’ at Gallaudet

left to right light skinned female, dark skinned male, light skinned male, dark skinned female all in grey tops and black pants.

Providing insights into the many ways deaf and hearing people can engage and interact is one of the goals of Sunshine 2.0, a traveling theatrical troupe from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. RIT/NTID is the world’s first and largest technological college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

The four-member group will be at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., for performances at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 29, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 30. The performances -- free and suitable for all ages -- are part of Gallaudet Dance Company’s “Icons and Inspirations” program.

Sunshine 2.0 performances involve the use of movement, juggling, magic and other physical elements to entertain and educate audiences about the deaf experience—information that is shared through a range of skits and short plays involving sign-mime, dance, gestures, ASL poetry, songs and storytelling. All performances are presented in sign language and spoken English to provide full audience access.

Workshops incorporate the use of sign-mime, signing songs, body awareness and the use of theater games, helping participants gain an understanding of body, movement and basic theater techniques useful for everyday life. 

The cast of Sunshine 2.0 -- Lauren Putz, Gerald Creer, Hayden Orr and Shiann Cook -- comes from Washington, D.C.; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; and New York state, with performance credentials in drama, comedy, dance and children’s theater, including Broadway, the Kennedy Center and others.

To learn more, go to

RIT/NTID Dyer Arts Center hosts ‘Three Masters: Hidden Gems’ exhibit through April 20

painting of a woman reclining on a couch colors are mostly reds/yellows/oranges with some green and light blue.

Three artists whose works have been shaped by family, faith and overcoming hardships are the focus of the “Three Masters: Hidden Gems” exhibit at the Joseph F. and Helen C. Dyer Arts Center at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The show runs through April 20.

“Three Masters” showcases the lively, harmonious portraits by Claire Bergman; the rich, stylized oil paintings by Igor Kolombatovic; and the mixed-media collages of mundane objects by Henry Newman.

Claire Bergman describes herself as a portraitist, emphasizing the importance of the figure as a whole with an inner life of its own. She says the artistic process allows her to study characters, and she attributes her success to self-growth and self-confidence as her art style evolves and develops. She is best known for her work with oil, watercolor and pen and ink. She has said that her deafness influences her work, and she imagines that the subjects of her portraits are trying to lip-read or follow a conversation.

Igor Kolombatovic’s artwork explores themes of freedom emerging from oppression. After experiencing hardship and upheaval during World War II, Kolombatovic found freedom and refuge from Europe when he settled in Canada. He eventually moved to California, where he attended the San Francisco Art Institute. He worked for Charter USA as an architectural engineering draftsman and was a docent at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Oakland Museum of California. He is best known for his artwork that he says reminds him and others about how God’s blessings outweigh his struggles, as he sought to examine his deaf identity and the history involved.

Henry Newman’s art is characterized by a unique style that blends common household objects with the art of collage, seeing the potential in what others saw as trash or junk. Materials he used to create his mixed media collages included scraps from hardware and appliances, hinges, plywood, backboards from TV sets, old clothing, jar lids, rusted metal and cassette tapes. He saw his deafness as an artistic advantage because it gave him a good eye for visual perception. He also used a wide range of styles, including linecuts, assemblages and paintings, and celebrated Jewish history and identity through art, using Hebrew and Yiddish texts as influences. 

A closing reception, free and open to the public, will be held at the gallery 5-7 p.m. Friday, April 12.

The gallery is located on the RIT campus in Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall, 52 Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Saturday. For more information, go to

For more information, contact Vienna McGrain at 585-475-4952 or

RIT/NTID team examines Nicaraguan sign language to determine whether languages change so they are easier to produce or to understand

Light skinned male with very little hair, glasses and goatee wearing plaid shirt tie and tan sweater.

New research is helping scientists around the world understand what drives language change, especially when languages are in their infancy. The results will shed light on how the limitations of the human brain change language and provide an understanding of the complex interaction between languages and the human beings who use them.

The project is funded by a $344,000 National Science Foundation grant and is led by principal investigator Matthew Dye, an assistant professor and director of the Deaf x Laboratory at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Dye and his research team are examining Nicaraguan Sign Language, which was “born” in the 1970s. Using machine learning and computer vision techniques, the team is looking at old video recording of the language and measuring how it has changed over the past 40 years. The recent birth and rapid evolution of Nicaraguan Sign Language has allowed them to study language change from the beginning, on a compressed time scale. They are asking whether languages change so they are easier to produce, or whether they change in ways that make them easier for others to understand. Initial results challenge a long-held notion that signs move toward the face in order to be easier to understand.

“Languages change over time, such that the way we speak English now is very different than the speech patterns of elder generations and our distant ancestors,” said Dye. “While it is well documented that languages change over time, we’re hoping to answer some fundamental theoretical questions about language change that cannot be addressed by simply analyzing historical samples of spoken languages.”

Dye explains that by using an existing database of Nicaraguan Sign Language, composed of 2D videos of four generations of Nicaraguan signers, his research team will be able to assess the extent to which linguistic changes occur and why. The team will also create computational tools that allow 3D human body poses to be extracted from the 2D videos.

Ultimately, these tools could be used to aid in the development of automated sign-language recognition, promoting accessibility for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, and for developing automated systems for recognizing and classifying human gestures. In addition, Dye says that deaf and hard-of-hearing students will participate in the research, helping to increase the diversity of the nation’s scientific workforce.

“We are fortunate that our study enables us to utilize the visual nature of sign language to gain a greater understanding of how all languages may evolve,” adds Dye.

Co-principal investigators on the project are Corrine Occhino, research assistant professor at NTID; Andreas Savakis, professor, RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering; and Matt Huenerfauth, professor, RIT’s Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences. The project is a collaboration with Naomi Caselli, assistant professor, Boston University, and Norm Badler, professor, University of Pennsylvania.

For more information, contact Vienna McGrain at 585-475-4952 or

RIT/NTID student/parent video series

orange background with white letters reading RIT and a horizontal line then NTID.

RIT/NTID is developing a series of videos featuring students and their parents discussing the reasons they made the decision to attend the university. Click on the links to watch videos of:

Currently, three videos are completed with more to come. We encourage viewers to watch and share the videos on their social media channels and with prospective students and parents. 

Rochester Red Wings baseball partners with RIT/NTID, Rochester School for the Deaf for Deaf Culture Day at Frontier Field April 28

three men, one woman, two mascots and a mannequin with baseball jersey and hat.

Rochester Red Wings baseball, in partnership with Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and Rochester School for the Deaf, will host the first Deaf Culture Day at Frontier Field, Sunday, April 28. The 1:05 p.m. game is a matchup between the Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox.

The announcement on March 5 at RIT/NTID featured Red Wings officials, administrators from RIT/NTID and RSD, student athletes, and mascots Spikes, from the Red Wings, and Ritchie, from RIT.

During the announcement, the Red Wings unveiled a specially designed jersey and baseball cap with “Red Wings” embroidered in American Sign Language. Replica T-shirts and adjustable caps, along with a ticket to the game, are available to fans for $20 and $22, respectively. Other merchandise, including flex-fit caps, adjustable caps, fitted caps and T-shirts, are available online or at the team store at One Morrie Silver Way in Rochester. Single tickets to the game--$7/$9/$11 using the promo code GOWINGS – are for sale at Proceeds from sales of game-worn jerseys will benefit NTID and RSD.

Interpreters will be on site during the game at Frontier Field to assist fans, and there will be a “silent inning,” without public address announcements, to raise further awareness about deafness.

“We are proud to partner with RIT/NTID and Rochester School for the Deaf for Deaf Culture Day so that we can celebrate the deaf community and the important impact that deaf citizens have had in Rochester,” said Red Wings General Manager Dan Mason. “We look forward to hosting many deaf members of the Rochester community and their families, while also educating all fans about deaf culture. The Red Wings are excited to have our players wear American Sign Language-inspired caps and jerseys for this special game. We also look forward to welcoming back deaf citizen and former NTID staff member Ogden Whitehead to Frontier Field, who was a fixture for many years while playing the role of ‘Recycleman,’ the Red Wings biggest cheerleader.”

NTID President Gerry Buckley spoke about the connection between deafness and baseball, as well as the rich history of Rochester’s deaf community.

“Throughout history, baseball and the deaf community have been intertwined,” he said. “And Rochester, which is known as ‘Sign City,’ is home to a historic deaf community. Furthermore, deaf and hard-of-hearing fans have been among the most loyal Red Wings followers. RIT/NTID is proud of its own history of deaf baseball players and is proud to partner with the Rochester Red Wings.”

Antony McLetchie, superintendent and CEO of Rochester School for the Deaf, said “RSD has a long history with baseball. This is a very exciting time for us and we look forward to this event being part of our history with the Rochester Red Wings.”

Amelia Hamilton, a third-year photographic and imaging arts major from Austin, Texas, worked with the Red Wings organization this past summer. “I enjoyed photographing the games and the fans. Rochester is a great community and being with the team helped me to get to know it better. I’m excited to see where my career will take me, but I will never forget the great experiences with the Red Wings.”

For more information, contact Vienna McGrain at 585-475-4952 or; or Nate Rowan, director of communications, Rochester Red Wings, at 585-454-1001, ext. 3006, or

Construction begins on RIT Dubai’s new campus

Five officials from RIT and United Arab Emirates stand in a line and each one holds a shovels in dirt.

Construction has started on RIT's new state-of-the-art campus scheduled to open in 2020 in the Dubai Silicon Oasis. The new campus, which will feature an innovation and entrepreneurship center and sustainable building processes, will be developed in two phases and will span more than 35 acres. The United Arab Emirates government is funding the approximately $136 million project.

Since launching in 2008, RIT Dubai’s enrollment has grown steadily. In the fall, RIT Dubai enrollment grew to more than 600 students, and the new campus will be able to accommodate up to 4,000. The state-of-the-art academic complex will house five colleges–Electrical Engineering and Computing, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Business Administration, Sciences, and Humanities. More.