Something Good: Student And Teacher Talk Shop Through Sign Language

Tuesday, June 15th 2021, 6:18 pm

Giovanny Perez has always enjoyed working on cars and fixing them.

The fact that he is deaf had never been a problem when working with his hands, but when he enrolled in the Francis Tuttle Automotive Collision Repair Program, there was a communication barrier.

"To be honest, when I was told I would have a deaf student in my class, I was very nervous,” course instructor Clint Drabek said. “I'd never had one before and I knew that there was going to be some challenges."

While there are thousands of signs in American Sign Language, when it comes to specific automotive parts, that language had yet to be created.

And the pandemic proved problematic for Giovanny's high school interpreter.

"With COVID, I can't be right in the middle of them, because we'd be too close," Putnam City West sign language interpreter Tim Ozment said.

It was a language barrier that could have brought everything to a crashing halt. But instead of quitting, they got creative.

Student and teacher put their gearheads together and developed their own specific signs to talk shop.

"We have been very creative in creating signs for the automotive class," Giovanny said through his interpreter. 

"It kind of compacted into, one sign would mean to go turn on the air compressor," Drabek said. "And so, we just kind of developed that throughout this."

Once they started signing the same language, it was a smooth ride from there.

And Giovanny's career is already accelerating.

"My future boss came here and invited me to come work for him. It made me very proud," Giovanny said.