Laura Tollin

Laura’s activism on behalf of the Deaf community includes involvement in the Virginia Deaf Grassroots Movement, which organizes peaceful protests to highlight issues faced by the Deaf community, such as access to communication, education, and employment. Laura is also involved with Virginia Tech’s Commission on Equal Opportunity and Diversity (CEOD). As of fall 2015, due to Laura’s encouragement, this group has discovered that there is zero data on People with Disabilities (PwD) at Virginia Tech.  The hope is to change the view of disability to ability.  Laura recently performed in a small but pivotal role in a ten-minute film promoting the Deaf as people with differences rather than disabilities. The main character in the film is Nyle DiMarco, and Laura acts as a Senator in the film to help pass legislation that will change the word ‘disability’ to ‘differences’ in the year 2024.

She hopes to complete a PhD research project investigating the everyday experiences of Deaf people by way of the Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K). This is Laura’s life calling; she wants to serve as a facilitator, activist, and advocate for Deaf populations while improving their employment prospects. Based on her work experience and background in science, she would like to develop a social science project that will determine the number of working-age Deaf adults while improving the unemployment statistics for this population, while passing legislation that protects the language rights of Deaf people. The seeds of this research idea began at Virginia Tech, and she endeavors to expand it to a global level. Laura envisions a future where Deaf people don’t have to worry about saving, Social Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), working off the books, or inequality in employment and pay.

As a deaf person with mobility issues, Laura has defied the odds by obtaining a Bachelors in Biology, worked for many years at an University, and is now pursuing a Masters in International Development at Gallaudet University.  Due to her first-hand experience with the challenges faced by people with hearing loss when trying to obtain employment, Laura has taken an interest in writing, advocacy, and activism related to this important issue. Laura’s personal understanding of the barriers to employment faced by the Deaf community and her background in social science have inspired her to work for change to help society see the Deaf as capable and talented people.

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