Students in VCC's Deaf and Hard of Hearing program
Vancouver Community College (VCC) is thrilled to share a recent interview with VCC faculty member Aastrid Evensen that aired on the March 29 edition of CBC Radio One’s On the Coast with Gloria Macarenko.
Evensen, who is a prominent member of the Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) community is also a long-time faculty member of VCC’s Department for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adults. She spoke with Macarenko about the challenges that masks brought to the DHH community during the pandemic and how the community feels now that restrictions have been lifted in B.C. They also discussed the film CODA, a comedy-drama about a child of Deaf adults (CODA) who aspires to be a singer. The film just won Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Deaf actor, Troy Kotsur) at this year’s Academy Awards.
Listen to Aastrid’s full interview with the assistance of Registered Sign Language Interpreter Brooke Gamas.
Read a transcript of the interview below.
The interview was conducted on March 29, 2022 over video.
[Interview time 00:00:00 - Gloria Macarenko]
Well, this is a big week for representation in the Deaf and hard of hearing community. The Apple Original Film Coda won best picture at the Oscars. This is the coming-of-age story about one hearing member in a Deaf family. So, we're talking to Aastrid Evensen about the win and about her experience during the COVID pandemic. Aastrid is a prominent member of the Deaf community and a faculty member in the Department for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adults at Vancouver Community College. Interpreting is Brooke Gamas. She's a Registered Sign Language Interpreter. Aastrid, hello. Good afternoon.
[Interview time 00:00:40 - Aastrid Evensen]
Hello, good afternoon.
[Interview time 00:00:42 - Gloria Macarenko]
So we are a couple of weeks past the end of the provincial mask mandate here in B.C. How are you feeling about it?
[Interview time 00:00:51 - Aastrid Evensen]
Yeah, I mean, socially, being out in the community, I admit, still using masks. But within the classrooms, having the masks off has been so much better. Being able to communicate with the students is much better.
[Interview time 00:01:05 - Gloria Macarenko]
Well, what kinds of challenges have the last two years brought to the Deaf and hard of hearing community?
[Interview time 00:01:14 - Aastrid Evensen]
Yeah, the largest challenge so far is just not having the students within the classroom. In person has been so ideal, but we have been using them as a means to teach online for the past year and so far since the fall, having everyone back in the classroom has been just exponentially better. And we've had masks on this entire time. During presentations we've had during teaching sessions, it's a lot easier for the students to be able to see our facial grammar and the, like, voice intonation. It's a similar idea when we're teaching, and so it's very hard to read with having a mask on. So, we have been kind of taking them on and off within the classroom just for that exposure. And now with the students being able to have their masks off as well has been so much more improved. So, yes, that's the main thing with regards to masks.
[Interview time 00:02:09 - Gloria Macarenko]
Well, I'm glad to hear that the situation is improving. Just what kinds of conversations has the whole experience through the pandemic brought up in the classroom with your students?
[Interview time 00:02:24 - Aastrid Evensen]
Oh, I mean, for the most part, we go through an array of different curriculum things, so they're mostly curious about vocabulary and developing their reading skills. There's been a whole host of different topics that you've been able to touch. Right now, we have some different resources for talking about science. Kind of like a middle level, high school reading level for them. And we're talking mostly about environments and kind of what's happening within the community. There's been a lot of different, but not necessarily specific topics about COVID.
[Interview time 00:03:02 - Gloria Macarenko]
Now, this past Sunday, we saw representation of the Deaf and hard of hearing community on an international stage. The Deaf family drama Coda won best picture. So what did you think of the win?
[Interview time 00:03:19 - Aastrid Evensen]
Yeah, absolutely. It was so elevating to see that the community just went through the roof with that and just being a Deaf woman and being able to relate to Marlee winning in the past. And now we have a male support actor winning his, just, expression and ASL is just so it's so leaving for the community to see is absolutely wonderful. So glad to have it done.
[Interview time 00:03:46 - Gloria Macarenko]
And what did you think of the film?
[Interview time 00:03:51 - Aastrid Evensen]
It was very top notch. I enjoyed seeing the whole drama unfold. I remember where a lot of people were reaching out to me saying, you have to watch it. Coda is amazing film, and when I finally had a chance to see it, just the story line, everything was so beautifully done.
[Interview time 00:04:09 - Gloria Macarenko]
I agree. I completely agree. But you know, from your perspective, how important is this type of mainstream representation, especially for young people in the Deaf and hard of hearing community?
[Interview time 00:04:24 - Aastrid Evensen]
Yes, very vital. It definitely helps with accessibility and also just seeing them within major films. So having that participation, not being that side actor or that additional support role necessarily, but to really focus in on the Deaf experience and where you see them not only win an award because that's so impactful, but it provides renewed interest for future youth to possibly go down that same endeavour.
[Interview time 00:05:00 - Gloria Macarenko]
That is great to hear. Aastrid, it is wonderful to be able to touch base with you today. You take good care.
[Interview time 00:05:07 – Aastrid Evensen]
Perfect. Thank you.
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