Joanna Witulski is working to bring resources and networking opportunities to region residents during the second annual Northwest Indiana Deaf and Hard of Hearing Festival.
Witulski, who is deaf, is chairing Saturday's festival in the 4-H Building at the Lake County Fairgrounds, 889 S. Court St., Crown Point.
In addition, 99 percent of the festival committee members are deaf and hard of hearing. The festival drew more than 200 visitors last year, and Witulski said it can often be an educational experience for those who can hear to participate.
“This is a different type of community environment on a larger scale. In turn, for the public, it is mainly an educational resource and an opportunity to see deaf and hard of hearing people in their natural environment,” she said.
“With that in mind, we provide voice interpreters and are working on providing captioning access real time (CART) for those who do not know American Sign Language. Not all deaf or hard of hearing people know ASL,” she added.
Vendors that cater to the deaf and hard of hearing population will be showcased, including craft booths, entertainment, art and literature exhibitions and presentations from a local deaf culinary expert.
“What we do is pretty special, especially in today’s society where we are drawn more to technology and losing that essential human contact. We pretty much introduce ASL students and the public to a unique group of people that exist within the region,” she said.
“I enjoy (my work) the most when I see deaf and hard of hearing people grab opportunities for themselves, and to make a difference wherever they go. It is a struggle, no question about it.”
More information on the festival can be found on the group’s Facebook page, Northwest Indiana Deaf and Hard of Hearing Events.
A 1994 graduate of the Indiana School for the Deaf, Witulski studied anthropology and public administration in college and is now employed at LaPorte High School and at Purdue University North Central as an American Sign Language instructor.
Witulski resides in Merrillville with her husband, Donald, and children Luke and Genevieve. She is a member of Indiana Association of the Deaf, the American Society of Deaf Children and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.