Louise Mussett teaches Pilates, but it’s no regular Pilates class. This is a class which has been developed specifically for Deaf people through a project grant from the Dartmouth Community Health Board. It’s taught by Louise entirely in American Sign Language. The weekly session lasts an hour and a half and has been designed to give the students the basic knowledge they need to be able to function with confidence in other non ASL courses.
Louise is a Pilates instructor, but more importantly, she is an Educational Interpreter for APSEA, Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority. She feels strongly about ASL becoming more accessible to a larger percentage of the population. According to the Deafness Advocacy Association Nova Scotia and Society of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Nova Scotians, project co-hosts, there are approximately 58 000 people who have some form of hearing loss in Nova Scotia. It certainly is surprising to have so little access to such a widely used language.
Louise expresses, “If more of the hearing population had even a basic understanding of how ASL works, this would provide more opportunities for Deaf people to comfortably participate in their communities using their first language.”
This one class, with accessibility as its primary objective, could be the start of something increasingly more mainstream. While Louise can only teach 8 students at a time, to be able to maintain eye contact and one on one instruction, she’s hoping the idea takes off and more classes start appearing throughout the community. The students presently taking her class travel from all over the HRM, as far as Harrietsfield which is about a half hour drive from the Woodside Community Centre, where the class takes place.
Clearly there is a need for increased accessibility in many areas of our society, thanks to Louise for marrying two of her passions together and getting the ball rolling with the first of hopefully many accessible fitness classes.
And a special thanks to Louise and to these kind participants of this class for letting me lurk with my camera!
& Jon Mainville
It’s an important door that Louise and the hosting organizations has opened, and I, for one, am so glad to see it’s part of the Dartmouth Community. Congrats to Louise and to the students! You’re all incredibly inspirational.