September 11, 2013
Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683

Signs At the Zoo: A New, Fun Way to Promote Greater Understanding of American Sign Language and Deaf Culture

September 22-29th is National Deaf Awareness Week

MADISON-From "Please Don't Feed the Animals", to the proper names of the animals on display, signs at our zoos abound. But different signs will be on display, Saturday, September 14, at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison to celebrate National Deaf Awareness Week. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. visitors will be able to learn the American Sign Language (ASL) signs for the names of the animals.

"Signs at the Zoo" is aimed at showing the general public that learning ASL can be fun, while increasing visibility of sign language, the deaf community, and the participating agencies that provide services to the deaf and hard of hearing.

"The zoo has always been a place where kids of all ages can learn while having fun. This is an opportunity to learn about all the different animals at the zoo, as well as a different way of communicating the animals' names," said Kitty Rhoades, Secretary of the Department of Health Services.

"What we hope is that the general public will come to appreciate that people who communicate using ASL are no different from anyone else, they just use a different method to get their messages across," said Linda Huffer, Director of the Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing at DHS. "We also hope that the public becomes more sensitive and accommodating to the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing by making an effort to communicate with them themselves, or through an interpreter."

Volunteers will teach signs at various stations throughout the zoo, and there will be entertainment and activities for kids of all ages.

"Friends of the Zoo is excited about this new partnership with a dynamic group of community partners, making Henry Vilas Zoo even more welcoming for everyone" said Lynn Pawelski, Director of Outreach at Friends of the Zoo.

For more information about the Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the range of services it provides, visit