Our big moonshot project wants to tackle the current problem of language deprivation in deaf children due to a lack of early language access. Our main solution was to create a program that would be mandated for medical field personnel who would come into contact with deaf children and hearing parents (physicians, nurses, social workers, audiologists etc.), in order to introduce them to the Deaf community, to Deaf culture, and the importance of early access to sign language.  

For our expert review, we talked to Dr. Jami Fisher, the founder and director of the American Sign Language and Deaf Studies Program at The University of Pennsylvania. Her research focused on documenting and analyzing Philadelphia-area ASL as well as sign languages in the linguistic landscape. She is closely involved with and immersed in the Deaf community and was able to use her personal and academic background to provide an insightful perspective to our Moonshot pitch. Dr. Fisher was extremely helpful and receptive to our project pitch and provided measurable and important feedback which we will summarize below:

Three pieces of feedback:

1. It is important to make sure that the impact of the program lasts beyond the program itself. In general, cultural competency models (such as diversity and inclusion activities) are always useful, but it is easy to finish these programs and not apply the information to everyday life

  • How should we make this training personal to the people here in order for them to truly understand the decisions that they are making every day and the impact those decisions have?

2. How do you make a program that is both impactful (see Deaf Strong Program at the University of Rochester) and sustainable?

  • We would need to come up with a program that does not take very long and is not too expensive but also is impactful for those going through the program. Deaf Strong is a week-long intensive program for those in medical school at the University of Rochester where they interact with people from the Deaf community who are acting as patients for a simulation. While this is a great way to eradicate medical bias against the Deaf identity and against early access to sign  language, it is not a feasible option for all medical schools across the country. We want to create a program that partners medical personnel with Deaf families for a meeting or two in order for the medical personnel to understand what it means to be Deaf from a first hand experience.

3. How will you make sure that all medical personnel are able to access this training?

  • We would create a course that would also be able to be taken virtually. With the current pandemic, we have discovered that we are able to basically do everything virtually. This would be an amazing opportunity to try to create a training program virtually to allow anyone, no matter where they are and no matter what situation they are in, to access this course.

The biggest risks of our Moonshot solution:

The biggest risk of our Moonshot solution is developing a program that is informative, extensive, as well as impactful for both the professionals enrolled in the program as well as the Deaf community. In addition, a big risk we are facing is making sure our solution builds off of and stands out from what is already available to ensure that people will want to engage with what we have to offer and take action. Another important consideration for our solution is our identities as hearing individuals. Because none of us (Nam, Ashley, and Amy) are Deaf or members of the Deaf community, we have to make sure that we draw from resources, knowledge, and perspectives created by Deaf individuals. In order to do this, we have to be comfortable asking for help and being open to continuous feedback.

Our revised solution:

After reflecting on Dr. Fisher’s feedback, we have made several changes, additions, and clarifications to our initial Moonshot solution.

The main changes to our solution include trying to balance the impact of this program with its sustainability as well the fact that this program must be able to be taken virtually. The specifics of our changes will likely evolve as we continue to the next phase of this project (the Paper Prototype), but here are three ideas that we have right now: (1) Make sure that our program is accessible virtually; (2) Ensure that the curriculum of the program is personalized so the participants feel connected to the material and that the significance, relevance, and importance of the topic sinks in; and (3) Build off of and research already existing similar programs, like the Deaf Strong program in Rochester. After completing this stage of the Moonshot project, we are feeling very enthusiastic about the direction and development of this project!