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Demonstrator Ends Hunger Strike, But Continues Protest Over Sign Language Methods
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 6, 2005

FLINT, MICHIGAN--A former employee of the Michigan School for the Deaf held an 8-day hunger strike last month, in an attempt to force the facility to change how it teaches students, and to hire a deaf principal.

Ryan Commerson was joined by demonstrators from around the country in picketing the school. On the first day of the protest, 43 of the school's 160 students were suspended for leaving school to join Commerson's "Starving for Access" protest, the Flint Journal reported.

Commerson wants the school to switch from its current "total communication" method, which uses a number of different means to communicate with students, to a "bilingual, bicultural" method, in which American Sign Language is taught exclusively by teachers with high ASL skill levels.

Commerson told Michigan Radio that the current method treats deaf people as if they have a disability -- an idea that many in the deaf community reject.

"I don't have any speaking ability, and I can read and write perfectly fine," he said through an interpreter. "There are many people out there who are very successful without even having enunciation skills."

Commerson also wants the Michigan legislature to draft a "Deaf Bill of Rights".

Commerson chose to only drink water, juice and hot chocolate from November 21 until November 29, when state education officials met with him and agreed to study more closely his demands regarding the new teaching method. He has returned to picket, however, to force current school principal Cece Winkler to resign.

"Hunger strike over, but protest continues at School for the Deaf" (Flint Journal)
"Starving For Access"


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