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Fashion fiends, Deaf Awareness Week is literally the week you get to wear your Deaf pride. Breast cancer awareness comes with pink ribbons, and "LIVE STRONG" armbands showcase our dedication to health and fitness. This year, Deaf culture awareness comes with a #deaffriendly tee.
deafREVIEW (www.deafreview.com) founder and CEO Melissa "echo" Greenlee discovered while wearing a tee one day while running errands, that #deaffriendly tees work on a subconscious as well as conscious level: People glanced at the hashtag, and visibly self-adjusted their behavior. You could see the gears whirring in their heads, as she described her sartorial experiment, "What does deaf-friendly mean? Am I deaf-friendly? Am I speaking at an appropriate pace? Should I attempt my crude knowledge of the ASL alphabet I learned in school?"
Opening up our Shopify store (www.deafreview.myshopify.com) to get these tee’s in the hands of deaf consumers and allies was the first step. The second, and equally exciting, was commissioning award-winning photographer Meryl Schenker to create a series of images. For two afternoons, Schenker, a former Seattle Post-Intelligencer staff photographer, was hard at work in her SODO studio capturing the essence of 12 local Seattle deaf, hard of hearing, or allied models.
The photo shoots were inspired in part by LGBT campaigns such as NOH8, the brainchild of co-founder and celebrity photographer Adam Bouska. While searching for models to wear our tees, we found 12 members of the local Seattle Deaf community who, through their lifestyles and attitudes, are ambassadors of deaf-friendliness.
Most hashtags have the half-life of a few days, or weeks, at most. And Deaf Awareness Week lasts exactly that: A week. But #deaffriendly isn't just a hashtag -- it's our lifestyle. And Schenker's images will last more than a lifetime ... here for future generations to remember.