TROY—Advancing technology is connecting the world and having a tremendous impact for the deaf and hearing impaired community, stage and screen actor Anthony Natale told the audience of the 15th annual Helen Keller Lecture at Troy University Tuesday.
The lecture, which is designed to promote awareness of people who excel in their chosen fields despite physical and/or mental limitations, was sponsored by Troy University, the Alabama State Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, The Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education, the Alabama State Department of Education, the Alabama State Department of Rehabilitation Services and the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. It was held in the Claudia Crosby Theater on the Troy Campus.
“We all use our devices to connect with others. Technology has expanded our access to the world,” said Natale, speaking through an interpreter. “In the next five to 10 years, technology will allow us to live more in the moment. Access to the world is the key to experiencing the joy of relationships.”
Natale, who is hearing impaired, is known to movie-goers as the man in the elevator during the pivotal scene from “Jerry Maguire,” signing “You complete me,” to his partner. He starred as the adult son in “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” the 1995 film featuring Richard Dreyfuss about the profound effect a dedicated music teacher had on generations of students. His film credits also include appearances in “Dogma,” “Sorority Boys,” “City of Angels” and “Children of a Lesser God.”
“When I was young, we didn’t have the technology available we do today, and it was a struggle to connect, even with members of my own family,” Natale said. “Fortunately my family is Italian. Since Italians are very physically expressive when they speak, American Sign Language came very naturally to my parents.”
Natale pointed to the development of telecommunications technology for the deaf, closed captioning and the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act as a few of the milestones that have helped to open doors for the hearing impaired.
“There are about 1.5 million people in the United States who are deaf or hearing impaired,” Natale said. “With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we now have access to interpreters in the workplace. The expansion of video relay technology is also impacting the ability of deaf workers to fill new roles in the workplace. With more opportunities comes a greater feeling of confidence, and it is important that we continue to work together to ensure that these opportunities for the deaf and hearing impaired community continue to grow.”
In addition, the lecture’s audience was treated to entertainment provided by the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind Ensemble, featuring Malia Thibado, Timarreo Wood, Tasha Ostrowski and Nicole Gordy. Thibado and Wood sang “The National Anthem” and “God Bless America,” while Ostrowski and Gordy interpreted in American Sign Language.