By Claudia L. Valladolid
The U.S. Consulate General in Toronto hosted a virtual American Sign Language (ASL) program, Dec. 14, 2021, in honor of International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The event featured the Bureau of Global Public Affairs’ (GPA) Senior Advisor for Employee Communications Roberta Mather. Mather, who is deaf and a native ASL user, provided a brief history of sign language and taught a basic lesson on how to communicate in ASL before answering participants’ questions.
“This event was a powerful testament of the long-standing ties between the U.S. and Canada,” said Mather. “While there are hundreds of sign languages out there, American Sign Language is used in both the U.S. and Canada. The beauty of languages is they bridge communities and countries, making the world smaller. And, on a personal level, it is deeply moving to see the consulate and Canada express interest in ASL and a linguistic minority—the Deaf community.”
In line with Mission Canada’s priorities on supporting diversity and inclusion, this program focused on deepening cross-cultural ties between Americans and Canadians.
“The United States is committed to advancing diversity and inclusion under the Roadmap for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership,” said Consul General Susan Crystal. “Across our Mission, we aim to play an active role in empowering diverse groups of people so that we can build back better, advance mutual interests, and strengthen our bilateral relationship.”
In Washington, GPA’s Live Virtual Programs team worked closely with Mather to coordinate logistics to ensure that the live, web-based programming was accessible to all Department of State employees and global audiences. With the help of the Office of Accessibility and Accommodations (OAA), including their Video Captioning @ State (Internal link), sign language interpreting and Section 508 teams, and resources like OAA’s “10 Tips for Creating Accessible Meetings (Internal link),” the Department is setting the standard towards an accessible and equitable future.
Claudia L. Valladolid is the public engagement coordinator at the U.S. Consulate General in Toronto.