DONOVAN Cresdee and Barry Priori have long had a vision to help deaf Australians feel more connected and are living the dream through their new business.
The two 61-year-olds are the founders of Sign Language Australia, a business owned and operated by Deaf people that aims to improve the lives of deaf Australians.
Donovan stressed the distinction between the words deaf and Deaf – the latter meaning culturally deaf* – and said a major aim of the business was to help deaf people engage with Australia’s native sign language and deaf culture.
Since launching in 2016, the Adelaide business has gained 500 clients by offering services including Deaf Awareness Training.
“Training is designed to increase community awareness about language and culture in workplaces and schools,” Donovan said. “Our aim is to bridge the cultural and language barrier between the Deaf and Hearing communities through professional, inclusive and culturally appropriate training programs.”
The business offers other services including Auslan short courses, face-to-face or Skype tuition, monthly workshops to support former or present Auslan learners’ skills, NDIS services and interpretation and translation services.
“All Sign Language Australia staff are Deaf, with a lifetime of experience in the Deaf culture community and have authentic Auslan knowledge,” Donovan said.
Donovan grew up in a Deaf family, with Deaf brothers and sisters, and learned Auslan as his first language.
But when he met Barry, who grew up in an Italian household, he quickly learned not every deaf person in the country was so fortunate.
“Barry never studied or naturally acquired Italian as a mother tongue due to deafness, although he learned a few Italian words with help,” Donovan said.
“He grew up learning English through a strict oral method and did not have the opportunity to acquire or learn Auslan in his home and school environment.
“He was limited to using Italian gestures and home signs with his siblings and his oral deaf friends.”
Donovan said the fact he had acquired Auslan as a strong “language base” was of immense benefit when he first met Barry at the age of 10.
Barry quickly fell in love with Deaf culture, took up Auslan as his preferred language, and the two formed a lifelong friendship. While the pair had encountered differences at times due to different personalities and educational experiences, Donovan said the strength of their friendship had allowed them to maintain clear lines of communication and overcome problems.
“Our belief is that we must always be open and honest about our feelings. All of this, has shaped our successful business partnership and maintained our lifelong friendship.”
* “Culturally Deaf: this is where the word deaf starts with a capital letter. It means those Deaf people who choose to identify as Deaf people and mix socially within the Deaf community, which has its own language (Auslan), culture (deaf way of doing things) and heritage.” – deafchildrenaustralia.org.au