Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
August 17, 2022

Disabled speaker opens dialogue

By LAUREN YEH | October 10, 2013

Jason Corning, president of the Baltimore Deaf-Blind Community, spoke this past Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Sherwood Room in Levering Hall. The event was sponsored by the Hopkins Student Disability Initiative.

Accompanied by two interpreters and his guide dog Spencer, who he has had for eight years now, Corning led an hour-long discussion in an attempt to raise awareness about the trials of growing up and living with deaf-blindness.

After a brief introduction, Corning engaged the audience by having everyone introduce themselves. His speech quickly became an active, personal dialogue.

Corning was diagnosed as deaf at the age of one, when his mother noticed that he remained unresponsive when she called his name.

Unable to avoid colliding with toys while playing, his mother also suspected that something was wrong with his vision. When Corning was two years old, doctors confirmed that he was blind.

Until he was five years old, Corning attended the Wisconsin School for the Deaf. His mother had to fight for him not to be placed in a specialized educational class because of his aggravated condition.

“He is bright,” Corning recalled her saying.

In seventh grade, Corning was transferred to blind school.

“We learned cooking, shopping, mobility,” Corning said. “Most people wonder ‘How can somebody like that do anything?’ I am here to let you know that I’m human just like you.”

Moreover, Corning asserted that, when provided with the adequate resources, disabled people can also do amazing things.

“I love my iPhone,” Corning said with a laugh, when asked how he could use his iPhone despite his blindness.

Corning explained that Apple devices have built in accessibility tools enabling him to use a smartphone.

“I use the zooming and reverse screen color because my eyes are light sensitive,” Corning said. He explained that was why he was wearing sunglasses. “The dark makes things clearer,” he said.

Although sometimes he admitted to needing an interpreter, Corning is now fairly independent and accomplished.

Corning graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater with a degree in Information Technology Infrastructure. During his four years in college, he lived in a dorm but did not have a roommate.

“The dog took too much space in the room, you know,” Corning said.

He reminisced about the devices available for him to facilitate communicating with his peers.

“Has anyone ever participated in a video-call? Well, video-thumb is the same concept: the interpreters at the end of the line would voice what I sign to everyone else,” Corning said.

Despite his twofold disability, Corning studied abroad in Ireland for three weeks with an interpreter provided by his school.

He recalled going into an Irish bar once in which he encountered a deaf Irish man. Interestingly enough, despite a common spoken language, English, the sign language each one had learnt were worlds apart, making communication virtually impossible.

“I knew British sign language, and he knew Irish sign language,” he said.

Corning now looks back on his time in college as a formative experience.

Currently a graduate student at the Hopkins Carey Business School, Corning is also employed by the government.

“I can’t go into too much detail, but I’ll fill you in the best I can: I’m a project manager,” Corning said.

He is also active in raising awareness for the deaf-blind.

“I like riding my bike, hiking, swimming, watching movies” Corning said in response to a student’s inquiry of what Corning enjoyed doing in his free time. “I grew up swimming, running track. I’m not into watching sports, but that’s just me. I’d rather play.”

In a serious relationship for two years now, Corning explained that he was getting married soon. He said that his Singaporean future wife and himself had bonded over the fact that, for both of them, English was a second language, thereby understanding each other’s frustration when trying to communicate sometimes.

When asked about the future and whether he would envisage going into space, he answered that, for the moment, he was more interested in driving a car.

“I’d love to be able to give myself a ride,” Corning said.

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