Ross School - Senior Project 2007-08

Student: Sarah Brown       

Mentor: Dale Scott


Title: Speaking Without Words


My senior project was to help people become more aware of deaf culture by interviewing various deaf people about what it is like to be deaf. With each interview I took photographs of the interviewee doing something they love best as a way of expressing their personality. After the interviews were all finished I created a book containing the images and interviews, designed for young adults. My goal was to not only help people become more knowledgeable about deaf culture, but to make myself more aware and involved.


Lou Ann Walker signing a story in American Sign Language

The cover of my book

Example of the inside of my book


Lou Ann Walker Interview, Saundra Dubin Interview, Samantha Aripotch Interview, Karen King Interview


For my senior project, I was originally, supposed to learn sign language and do the interview myself. That didnÕt work out because I couldnÕt get myself to night classes at Suffolk Community College and I didnÕt have time to do it. I also had the idea of putting together a book consisting the history of deaf culture and sign language, but I figured that wouldnÕt keep me interested for very long, just writing and researching.

I decided it would be more fun and I could keep myself interested by doing multiple things, such as researching, book design, writing, interviewing, and photography. I went to my outside consultant, Lou Ann Walker, and I talked to her about my ideas, she agreed that the book with multiple things would be best.

I interviewed 8 people, with an interpreter, and I photographed them as well. The interviews were asking the people what itÕs like to be deaf and were meant to help people understand more about deaf culture. Lou Ann Walker helped me a lot, figuring out what kind of questions to ask, and other things to say so I would not offend anyone, and taught me not to treat deafness as a handicapped but a culture. IÕve always had a personal interest in cultures and languages but I wanted to do something that a lot of people donÕt know about.      

For this project I had plenty of personal goals and goals that I needed to have in order to pass. As for my personal goal, I wanted to gain a better understanding in deaf culture and American Sign Language. I wanted to learn how to become more independent and I wanted to create a decent looking book that helps people understand deaf culture and American Sign Language. As for the product goals, I wanted to have a portrait of each of my interviewees, and I also wanted to learn how to communicate well through my interviews.

For my interviews I chose a variety of people to interview. It was important because there are so many different ways of looking at the deaf community depending on each personÕs situation. I interviewed one lady, Anne Sorace who grew up in France, and never learned French Sign Language, and when she moved to America she learned American Sign Language. I interviewed Lou Ann Walker, my outside consultant, who grew up with deaf parents, and is hearing. She went through many struggles that other hearing children didnÕt go through. I also interviewed a young deaf girl, named Samantha Aripotch, who grew up in Montauk and was a mainstreamed student at East Hampton High School.

I had a fair amount of challenges during the process of this project. I had never done any of the things I wanted to do except for photography. Interviewing was a main challenge for me, especially since I didnÕt know sign language and I am also a shy person when it comes to meeting new people. When I first started working on my book, I had to begin with finding paper, originally I was supposed to create my own book, print out the pages myself and everything but I decided not to because it was extremely expensive with all the paper I needed, and if I wanted to print multiple copies I couldnÕt. So I decided to research online and ask people about any online publishing companies. First I was introduced to this program called Lulu. I started to play around with the website and look around a little, it was a little complicated and then a week later I was introduced to was user-friendlier than Lulu so I stuck with that. All I had to do was basically design my book and choose what kind of book I wanted, and the publishing company would print it for me.

Once I started putting the book together and I was finished with all my interviews, that is when the problem started, I couldnÕt figure out how to set up my book. I knew I wanted to have the picture of the interviewee on the left page and the interview to start on the right so it would be even and clear who the interviewee was. But then I started to have interviews that were more than three pages and I had to find something to put on the blank pages so I could keep my pattern. I tried pulling out quotes from the interview, but that didnÕt look good, then I researched deaf quotes but I wasnÕt satisfied with that because just a quote on an entire page just didnÕt look right. So Lou Ann gave me a poem about sign language to use and that look nice on the page, I also used pictures that I hadnÕt planned to use. I printed out copies of my book multiple times to fix the problem and just tore my book apart and everything.

In the end, I learned plenty of lessons and skills. I learned interviewing skills what kind of questions to ask, how to communicate better with people. I learned how to introduce myself in sign language. I learned how to layout a book and how book design works.

I also taught myself how to be more organized and learned how to manage my time better.

Works Consulted

Aripotch, Samantha. Online interview. 28 Nov.-Dec. 2007.

Doyle, George. ÒClose-Up of a Hand Gesturing PerfectionÓ. Getty Images. 2008. Viewed 18 Dec. 2007. <>.

Doyle, George. ÒClose-Up of a Hand Gesturing the Victory SignÓ. Getty Images. 2008. Viewed 18 Dec. 2007. <>.

Doyle, George. ÒClose-Up of a Hand with the Index Finger Pointing UpwardsÓ. Getty Images. 2008. Viewed 18 Dec. 2007. <>.

Dubin, Saundra. Personal interview. 5 Oct. 2007.

King, Karen. Personal interview. 16 Oct. 2007.

Pinsky, Robert. ÒIf You Could Write One Great Poem, What Would you Want it to Be About?Ó. 2008. Viewed 9 Jan 2008.


Sorace, Anne. Personal interview. 21 Sept. 2007.

Sorace, Michael. Personal interview. 21 Sept. 2007.

Walker, Lou Ann. A Loss for Words. Harper Collins, 1987.

Walker, Lou Ann. E-Mail interview. 4 Dec. 2007.

Community Member (Details)

Lou Ann Walker was my outside consultant for this project. She was a great help in everything I needed to do. Lou Ann grew up in the deaf culture and community all her life. Although she is hearing, her parents were deaf; sign language was her first language. Lou Ann introduced me to all my interviewees, without her I would not have known any of them. Today, Lou Ann writes books and works for a local newspaper as a writer. She has had a lot of experience in interviewing and writing as well as, interpreting for deaf and hearing people. A few years ago, Lou Ann wrote a book about her life as a hearing child in a deaf world and how it was growing up; the book is called A Loss for Words. To gain a better understanding of deaf culture and Lou Ann, I read this book.  For all my interviews where I needed an interpreter, Lou Ann was there for that, originally I was hoping to present with an interpreter, and invite all my interviewees for the presentation but unfortunately, I couldnÕt get in touch with Lou Ann until the day of the presentation because of her personal reasons.