Angela Van Ostran teaches ASL and Deaf culture in schools and the community

Angela Van OstranAngela Van Ostran a fierce advocate for social change, earned a degree in journalism, and has a Bachelor’s in Psychology from San Diego State University. Angela enjoys opportunities to bring the disability, Deaf, and LGBT communities together through education and identifies proudly as a queer Deaf gimp.

She has worked with several Pride organizations, sat on the Board of Directors for Disability Rights California, and has given lectures on Disability Sexuality, Sexual Assault and Disabilities, Deafness in the Media, Disabilities in the Media, Disability Etiquette, Ableism in Higher Education, Disability Etiquette and Customer Service, Parenting with a Disability, and greatly enjoys teaching ASL and Deaf culture in schools and the community whenever possible. Angela is currently working to start her own business training and educating businesses owners and employees, to ensure more socially and physically accessible businesses and work environments.

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Hello, my name is Angela Van Ostran. My name’s Angela. I am a single mom. I’ve done a lot of work in the community and a lot of activism and support in disability community and Deaf community, blind community. Myself, I am Deaf and I use a wheelchair, I have cerebral palsy, and I’ve done a lot of volunteer work in the community. I really enjoy working with kids and educating the next generation of kids that, so a lot of the kids that I interact with have a) don’t have filters, b) the kids are encouraged to ask questions. The more kids understand about disabilities, the less fear and the less uncertainty they feel. And the more empowered they are to engage and interact with other people with disabilities in the future. I’ve done a lot of work in the Pride communities. Helping Pride companies or parades, or, being more accessible to all people of all disabilities. And that’s been some kind of a passion of mine to really focus on an inter webbing, the LGBTQ and the disability communities together and the Deaf community as well.

So the first time I encountered discrimination, I was in sixth grade, I was 11, maybe 12, and I was going to a school that had a whole section for kids with disabilities to go to school. I was integrated into a mainstream school. And so, I saw other kids going to the corner of the school and patrolling and protecting kids when they were walking across the sidewalk. I wanted to do that. I don’t know who put a little beat in my head that said, you should do that, but I really wanted to be on patrol. I wanted to wear that red jacket and the pants and, you know, holding that big, old sign. So, I decided to apply for it. And it was the first time I really encountered someone saying, I don’t think you can do that.

When I applied and they said, I don’t think you can really do that was the first time I said, why not? Why can’t I? What’s wrong with that? So, it took all summer between my fifth and sixth grade year to encourage the police department to allow me to even try to do it and see if I could. I had to get letters from my doctors saying, yes, I was able to do it and letters from my teachers saying that we think she is capable of doing it. Let her try. So try was the biggest idea. Let me try it. So, first I think fifth and sixth grade, I was able to be on patrol and hold that big, heavy stop sign and be on my campus and feel like I was doing something that my peers were doing that I had never seen somebody else with a disability do. And I’m told that I was the first person in California with a disability to be on the safety patrol. So it was really a big moment for me and my family to see that I could do something that police officers and other people in the city said “I don’t think so.” Yeah, I think so. I can.

First time I had heard about the ADA, I was, I think, close to my junior or senior year in high school. And a lot of the information was on the TV, but there was not captions. I knew what was going on. I understood the impact it would make, but I didn’t know what was going on with it. Who was signing it? What was being said. The news was not captioned. And someone had told me that if the ADA was passed, that all news would have to be captioned. All TV shows everything would have to be captioned. And that was like, wow, okay. Yes, we need this because I was watching shows that I have watch now in the last few years and said “That’s what that was about.” I didn’t even know because people are talking behind the scenes and someone is talking. So you’re seeing the person that’s talking to the camera, but not the person that’s not on camera when they say something.

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So, the other part of that is in high school, I was on the school orchestra. And they told me that a lot of places we were going to perform were not accessible, and my teacher and I both said why not? They should be. I mean, everyone should have access, but it’s a stage and not many people with disability perform here. I’m here. So let’s figure it out. So my teachers at my school were really supportive and really encouraged me to not allow them to say, okay, maybe you need to sit with them for now. They never said that. They always say, okay, let’s figure this out, let’s put this together. My teacher even said a couple of times, if we all can’t perform, then we’re not going to perform at all. So it was a big thing for me to see that schools would be impacted in a different approach because of physical access and being in a wheelchair, having to have that physical access was very different than being Deaf and needing that captioned access or interpreter access. So, I was able to see it from different positions, different approaches in my younger years that now I see we have that now, because we did that way back when, and all of the work that it took to get to that moment had a huge impact on so many different lives in so many different ways.

I think, including more captioning in social media. I think that a lot of people, especially right now that we’re isolated, we’re trying to watch shows. We’re trying to watch the news on social media and get whatever information we can to be safe. It’s really impacted a lot of people not having the ability to watch YouTube channels or specific shows that don’t have any captioning. And I do a lot of work with sending messages to people, reminding them, can you caption that? And most of the people are really appreciative of being reminded that captions are important. A lot of the shows I watch or channels I watch, already have captioning and I praise them for that. I really let them know. Thank you. I appreciate that. And on the other side, it should be captioned all. It should be an option for everyone to be able to click on something on social media and be able to have access to it without having to ask someone or look for the transcript somewhere else online.

I think a lot of the work for the ADA has been done, but a lot of people, small companies, big companies need to be reminded. I think that a lot of people forget that access, physical access, is just as important as captioning or interpreters in the classroom or at a doctor’s appointment. I think that having kids educated about people with disabilities at an early age encourages a lot more of that understanding of what this ramp is for and what that parking spot is for and why it’s important if your parents don’t park there and things like this, that we pass on, that they pass on and they can connect to things in their world in a way that kids in previous generations didn’t experience at all, or didn’t have any exposure to.

Twitter/IG: @gimpygladiator

In partnership with Diana Pastora Carson, M.Ed.
Author: Beyond Awareness: Bringing Disability into Diversity Work in K-12 Schools & Communities, and children’s book Ed Roberts: Champion of Disability Rights, ADA 30th Anniversary Edition

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