Latest update March 24th, 2023 12:59 AM
May 01, 2016 News
“There is no limit anywhere. We can practically do anything that we want to do. If you want something bad enough you can have it; if you can think about it, you can surely achieve it.”
By Sharmain Grainger
“Our school system has failed our deaf people.”
This notion has long been recognised by Quincy Richards and has been a tremendous bother to him. It is no wonder that he is part of a movement to help incorporate, into the public education system, an Adapted Deaf Curriculum.
What’s interesting about Richards, though, is that he is not deaf neither has he any relatives, he knows of, who are deaf. In fact his introduction into the world of the deaf was all coincidental. Although rather challenging, at first, it turned out to be one of those experiences that are meant to occur to achieve a greater good. As a matter of fact, Richards would have had it no other way.
Today he is a one of the three directors of the Deaf Association of Guyana (DAG) and has even co-authored a book ‘Signing for Health’ which is essentially a manual supplemented by a Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) to assist health care providers to communicate with the deaf.
But Richards was at first invited to be part of a very informal movement spearheaded by the President and Founder of DAG Sabine McIntosh, who is grandmother to a deaf child.
The vibrant, rearing-to-go Richards was seen as a suitable addition to the group to help propel the interests of deaf people to another level. Together they, and other like-minded individuals, have defied the odds and showcased the deaf, not as a disabled faction of the population, but very capable individuals who merely lack the ability to hear.
But it wasn’t until 2010 that the entity became a formal organisation, registered under the Friendly Society as the Deaf in Guyana and then later as the Deaf Association of Guyana.
DAG, with Richards as a key player, has travelled throughout the country doing research in sign language in the quest to advance the interest of the deaf population and simultaneously empower them.
At the recent launch of the Adapted Deaf Curriculum, which represented a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Education and DAG, Richards was the designated signer.
The forum, which was held at the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD), saw Richards being tasked with communicating to the deaf what was said by each of the several speakers.
According to Richards, who has been involved in youth development, he functions on the notion that “there is no limit anywhere. We can practically do anything that we want to do. If you want something bad enough you can have it; if you can think about it, you can surely achieve it.”
Against this background, the now evolving author and playwright is convinced that anyone, even an individual with a disability, can realise their heart’s desire.
“SINGING WAS MY THING…”
Born Quincy Dane Richards, on December 23, 1980 in Mabaruma, Region One, he was the fourth of six children. His biological mother, now deceased, was Joycelyn Richards. Although he remembers living for a period with his mother in Queenstown, Georgetown, and in Mabaruma with his maternal grandmother, Yvonne Richards, for awhile, most of his boyhood memories are with his mother’s aunt, Ms. Helena Walcott.
He recalled that his aunt, who had no children, opened up her heart and home and raised him as her very own. Home with his aunt was at a domicile in East Ruimveldt, Georgetown.
He remembers attending nursery, primary and then secondary schools in the capital city. But he was quite an introvert, and this was especially noticeable during his days at Christ Church and then the Brickdam Secondary schools.
However, it was during his very introverted days in secondary school that a singing talent that was long being nurtured in church would surprisingly come to the fore.
What many at school didn’t know was that Richards grew up in the Ebenezer Seventh Day Adventist Church and was even a part of a vibrant singing group.
“Singing was my thing…I think it has always been my passion,” said Richards as he revealed that he was also a member of the Ministry of Culture’s brass band back in the day. He was a smooth handler of the cornet, a musical instrument similar to a trumpet. As he reminisced on those days, with a smile on his face, he mimicked playing the instrument.
But because of his reclusive nature he didn’t feel too comfortable sharing his talent with his classmates. This would however change one day when he almost absentmindedly volunteered for a vacant singing role for a school event.
“I did the piece and the rest is history…they didn’t want to let me go. Since that happened (event), everything the school had my name was called and I had to perform,” Richards recounted.
But his involvement in the musical arena would ‘fizzle out’ by the time he embraced adulthood. “Life started to happen and I realised I needed to ease up a bit,” reflected Richards, who also recalled earning vast experiences as a member of the Pathfinder Club, which is affiliated to the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Little did he know things were not about to “ease up” as his life was merely about to head along a different path.
This new path of his life would start when he became acquainted with a deaf young man by the name of James Williams. Williams, interestingly enough, had four other deaf siblings and this was especially astonishing to Richards at the time.
Although he had learned signing to some extent during his Pathfinder Days, it certainly did not prepare him to communicate with someone who was actually deaf.
But the difference in their abilities certainly did not deter Williams from indulging in intense conversation, by way of signing, with a then unaware Richards.
“He (Williams) would just start signing (the use of hand signs to communicate) and moving his lips, and I was like oblivious,” recalled Richards as he broke into educational chit chat.
He explained that although Williams essentially has the ability to talk, the fact that he is deaf has denied him the ability to hear and learn words like the hearing population.
“Hearing people usually start talking because they hear something and then they mimic that. But because deaf people have no hearing and are not able to mimic anything they hear, they really aren’t able to develop speech,” Richards explained.
But there are some people who are classed as deaf but have some amount of residual hearing. Such persons, Richards added, often may mutter sounds when they sign.
“This means they are not profoundly deaf…they still have some bit of hearing and the sounds that they mimic are the things that they hear. They are moving their lips and think whatever it is that is coming out of their mouth is making some kind of sense, but that is how they hear it,” Richards related. In fact he pointed out that there can be different levels on the spectrum of deafness.
However, Richards himself didn’t learn about the deaf world overnight. In fact it took a deliberate effort on his part to learn and appreciate an existence that he couldn’t remotely comprehend without trying and trying really hard.
“At first I was thinking ‘what the hell is this?’ There is no way I can learn this!”
In order to be polite to the ever-friendly Williams, Richards attempted to communicate by way of writing. But this wasn’t at all effective as, according to him, he discovered that Williams, like a number of other deaf people he would later encounter, had a critical aversion to the written word.
Richards was soon seeking knowledge from ‘signing books’ but admitted that it certainly wasn’t easy to learn. However, Williams’ infectious nature would turn out to be enough to evoke an unadulterated passion to learn in Richards.
“I eventually became so immersed in this thing and I had no idea what was happening,” recalled Richards, who eventually became active in the deaf community around 2005.
He remembers attending numerous deaf events and even a church that catered to the deaf. Richards was simply intrigued by this newfound world and wanted to learn everything there was to know about it.
He wasn’t proficient as yet, but what he learned was sufficient to remain in the signing loop.
Signing would eventually become second nature to Richards, whose ability would eventually morph to such an extent that he became an interpreter for the deaf.
It might have been in 2008 when he was thrust into the interpreting realm in a most colossal way. Richards recalled that it was at a massive event – to celebrate Deaf Awareness Week, and which saw the attendance of many overseas visitors – that he was forced into the spotlight.
The event was convened at the Herdmanston Lodge and was filled with all sorts of performances by deaf persons from both local and overseas. A shortcoming though, was that since signing is not universal, all in attendance couldn’t understand what was being delivered. Richards was moreover invited to be the interpreter.
“I was just sitting there minding my own business, as usual, just being fascinated, when I heard someone asking for me to please come and interpret…,” Richards recounted.
According to him, it wasn’t a task that he was prepared for, but he reluctantly accepted.
From that day forth, Richards has not stopped being involved, in a big way, in the deaf community. He, moreover, redoubled his efforts to learn more in hopes that he could help, even in a small way, to bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing populations.
And it is for his dedication to the deaf community that we recognise Quincy Richards as a ‘Special Person’.
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