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Diane Leonard Transcript

Minnesota Deaf Heritage Oral-Visual Interview with Diane Leonard

Background Information

Interview Information

This interview with Diane Leonard (DL) was incorporated into the Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans’ (MNCDHH) Oral-Visual History Project. This interview was originally produced by the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Metro Division (DHHSD) of the Minnesota Department of Human Services. This interview took place in 1997. The interviewer was Robert “Bob” Cook (BC).

Translation Notes

A note about translation of this interview: The interview was recorded in American Sign Language (ASL). The interviewer and interviewee used ASL as a first language, and the signed information was translated into vernacular or spoken English by interpreters.

This transcript and the open captions in the video are based on the spoken English information.

Actions are in brackets. Translation notes are in parentheses and italics (using the emphasis font), and they represent additional information and corrections about what was said.

Transcript of Interview with Diane Leonard

Key to names:

DL = Diane Leonard (signs in American Sign Language, voiced in English by interpreters)

BC = Robert “Bob” Cook (signs in American Sign Language, voiced in English by interpreters)

[Visual of title graphic “Minnesota Deaf Heritage: An Interview with Diane Leonard”]

[Robert “Bob” Cook is sitting with Diane Leonard for the interview.]

BC: Hello. My name is Bob Cook. I am very happy to have with me in the studio today an interesting woman named Diane Leonard. Diane is the current director of MELD (Minnesota Early Learning Design). I’ll be asking her a few questions about that program. 

DL: Hi. I’m Diane Leonard. I work as the assistant to the national parent organization. We have different programs. My focus is on the Deaf and hard of hearing program. I provide support information to parents of Deaf children. Toddlers are 0-3. I recruit and train volunteers who function as facilitators. They become the leaders of the group and they are peers within that group. My responsibility is site coordinator, helping them to find places for their group to meet. The MELD program, not mine, but the MELD program focuses on Hmong groups. They have a program for teen moms. Parents of children who have special needs. But my group focuses just on Deaf or hard of hearing. The second part, a very small part, of my job is I go to national conferences and give presentations on Deaf education with the hope they will copy or replicate my program. My position is called Program Replicator Manager but most of it is here as site coordinator. I love my work. I’ve worked there for three years, but before that, I volunteered as a parent group facilitator. I worked with new parents and now I have become a staff person at MELD. It’s neat and I love it. This month we’ll start a new program serving Deaf and hard of hearing parents with hearing kids ages 6-12. This month we’re going to be starting that and I’m so excited. With Prospectives and Health and Wellness programs and Children of Deaf Adults, CODA, we’ll provide those people so they can become facilitators with hearing kids ages 6-12 to provide support groups for them to learn and have fun and to play and do activities in collaboration and share those experiences in a Deaf family. The Deaf parents will be involved in a video discussion group to talk about their experiences as having hearing teens – 6-12. That will happen every month. There will be two separate groups with eight or nine in each group. Wow, it’s going to be a lot of work. I’m really busy now.

BC: I’ve seen your program growing and I see your fascination with it. It makes me think I want to know more about you. Could you tell me a little bit more about yourself?

DL: Fine, OK. I guess I was born Deaf. It’s really unknown cause. My parents suspected around age two and after that, I went to Minneapolis, to the Hearing Society. I went to Faribault school for the Deaf (Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf – MSAD). I started until I graduated. It was really neat at the institution. I was involved in many activities, sports, school activities. I don’t think I would have gotten that in a hearing school had I gone to a hearing school. But I graduated and then I went to Gallaudet University for four years and I finished with a B.A. in social work. I really enjoyed going to Deaf school that was specifically designed for Deaf children and adults. I liked that. I think I got a lot of benefit from that that I wouldn’t have gotten going to a hearing school. 

BC: After you graduated from Gallaudet, you headed right back to Minnesota or did you take some other path?

DL: I wanted to come back to Minnesota but I didn’t find a job. So for one year, I worked for the federal government, working with United States Immigration and Naturalization Department. For one and one-half years I did that. Then I transferred to the VA (Veteran’s Administration) Medical Center for about nine-ten years. During that time, I volunteered at MELD as a facilitator for two years. Then it happened that the director of that program resigned and I volunteered for her job and I got it. I went in and started working on the Deaf and hard of hearing program. I’ve been working at MELD ever since, for about two years now. 

BC: Thank you, Diane. Tell me, how did you meet your husband?

DL: It is a really funny thing. I was at Gallaudet University and my husband was at NTID (National Technical Institute for the Deaf) at that time. There was a retreat – Gallaudet and NTID got together in Pennsylvania. It was my first year at Gallaudet. My husband remembers it and I don’t. He remembers seeing me. He showed me a picture. Yes, I was there and he was there but his face was kind of vague. Then a year later, I met him again at a church function here in Minnesota. My cousin was going to college here. He was from Illinois but he came here to go to college. I met him at a church function. Things went on from there and we got married. Last summer, we celebrated our tenth anniversary. So it continues. 

BD: You have children?

DL: Yes, I have children. Two hearing boys. Matthew is eight-and-a-half; he will be nine in February. Michael will be seven in November. Two hearing boys. They are fine. They both are involved in sports and are very active. They are doing well in school. There is a funny story to tell about Matthew because, when he was in third grade, he had a Deaf girl in his class. It was really interesting. 

BC: Do your children sign with you?

DL: Yes, both sign. We want to communicate freely with them. They are really bilingual – English and ASL (American Sign Language). I really want to stress that they have two languages. I didn’t have that so I want them to have that and I want them to be proud of their parents and the Deaf culture and to think positively about it. One more thing about families – we joined a Deaf parent and hearing children support group. The four of us joined that. It’s really been a good experience for the kids and my husband and myself. Now we are wearing two hats. One over here – we’re group participants and we’re also the overseers and facilitators of the group. It could be a problem, but it’s really going all right. 

BC: I’m sure you can do it. You are such a positive person. Can you tell me, do you have any hobbies or businesses?

DL: I have many hobbies, but I absolutely love crafts. For example, tonight I’m going to a friend’s house to learn how to make baskets. Then about a month later, I will take what she taught me and pass it on to another friend. The three of us will then teach a group of about five other people, for a total of fifteen. We tend to do this with various crafts. So if I have the time, I like to do many different crafts. But I usually don’t have much free time so I do them whenever I can. For example, at Christmastime, I save money by making many of the gifts I give people. Last year, I made Christmas gifts. I asked my mother to teach me. When they were finished, I gave them to my son’s teachers, my mother-in-law and other people. So I was able to save money. I also enjoy sewing. I remember back in high school, I used to love making my own clothes. But nowadays, that’s rare. I tend to do more mending now. Fixing holes in my son’s jeans. I hate doing that, but it’s my job. I also love to read and will read just about anything - magazines, books, whatever. I read anything in print. I like to go for walks, especially with my family - to see the color of the leaves in the fall. It can be beautiful, so I enjoy my walks. Also, my husband has his own home-based business called Melaleuca. I help him with that when he needs it, assisting him with his presentations, working as a team to be sure all the information is covered. But, he does most of the work. Melaleuca is a direct-marketing business. We recruit people annually for the business as either customers or those who want to be more directly involved. Then, these people place direct, monthly phone orders. It is unlike any other businesses where orders are placed with the salesperson who gets the product and who then must distribute them to customers. That’s a lot of work. With Melaleuca there is much less paperwork, just the initial contract and then placing your monthly orders. The salespeople are all trained as to how to do the paperwork and answer any questions from customers. I guess that’s all.

BC: Very interesting. Now for my final question: You grew up being part of the Deaf world. From your viewpoint, when you compare the hearing world of your youth with that of today, do you notice changes, possibly in improvement in people’s attitudes?

DL: Oh, yes, there have been many changes. People with hearing loss have a more positive attitude now. There are many more ASL classes being offered, it is accepted as a second or foreign language. People are more interested in learning the language and they have more exposure to Deaf people, realizing we can do anything except hear. We now have greater access through TTYs (Teletypewriters or Text Telephones), computers, captioning and the relay service which is a real blessing! We no longer have to rely on hearing people to help us place phone calls, which used to be a big headache. Now we can do it ourselves with the relay service, which isn’t perfect, but still better than before. So, many things have changed during our time. When I was a kid, maybe grade six or seven - certainly before Gallaudet - all of this technology hadn’t had much impact on me - I didn’t have much worldly experience yet. I don’t know what it must have been like for Deaf adults back then as compared to my experiences today. I can imagine the frustration of driving to a friend’s home only to find no one there because they couldn’t call ahead. We don’t have that problem now. Still, it can be frustrating as a Deaf person to rely on hearing people for information like a movie plot - we always get the condensed version. So, even though there are less problems today, they still do happen. I’m happy to be living in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Things are always getting better - I’ve heard that soon we will have interpreting services through video-conferencing.

BC: That would be a boon to your business, you might even get rich! I want to thank you for your time; I’ve really enjoyed talking to you.

DL: Thank you.

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