Thursday, October 22, 2009

Burton woman sets up social hour for the deaf in Grand Blanc

Source Link - Burton woman sets up social hour for the deaf in Grand Blanc

GRAND BLANC, Michigan — For a time, the cafe was almost empty and, despite one table full of chatter, silent.

Kathleen Kinnee didn’t quite get the turnout she’d hoped for at her first Deaf Chat Coffee gathering — a chance for people in the deaf community to get together and socialize — but she’s determined to establish a monthly social hour.

“(We) need some kind of social event,” Kinnee, 48, of Burton said in a written interview.

Only her sister, Dianne Kinnee, who is also deaf, ended up coming with her one-year-old granddaughter, Keira.

Kathleen Kinnee attributed the low turnout to the time she’d picked, 12:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. Many of her friends wrote to say they couldn’t make it, and she said she thinks she’ll change the time and location to a time more suitable for everyone.

Sitting at the Starbucks in Grand Blanc Wednesday, waiting for more friends to arrive, the sisters explained why it’s important for the deaf to have social gatherings.

“It’s always nice to see another deaf fellow. It’s a rare opportunity so we need to set up a place or us to get together regularly,” she said.

Deaf Chat Coffee is a program set up through Starbucks, which has a Web site for people to communicate and set up a time and place to meet. Kathleen Kinnee said there are local events and gatherings for the deaf already, like a professional happy hour, but said, “I want something different — coffee.”

The nearest Deaf Chat Coffee is Madison Heights, Kathleen Kinnee said.

Dianne Kinnee, who works part-time as a substitute teacher at Michigan School for the Deaf, said she was excited when her sister decided to set up the event.

“I thought it is a great idea — it would give us a chance to get together. Perhaps we will find a better time and day so more people can attend,” she said.

Both the sisters said that with new social networking technologies like Facebook and Twitter, communicating with friends has become much easier. Still, there’s nothing like meeting face-to-face.

Deaf Chat Coffee isn’t just for the deaf either. Anyone looking to learn or practice American Sign Language is welcome. Even Keira, who can hear, is learning ASL as she learns to speak.

Dianne Kinnee said it’s always good to see a hearing person learning, or even trying, to sign.

“Once in a while, once someone realizes that I’m deaf, they’d attempt at signing. It always thrills me to see that,” she said.