The Eugene and Inez Petersen Collection
Many deaf young adults have limited opportunities to meet or interact with deaf adults, particularly if they have hearing families, attend mainstream schools, and/or live in rural areas. As a result, they may be unaware of the rich and diverse lives of deaf people, and without deaf role models they may never gain this awareness. Similarly, many hearing people hold stereotypes of deaf people because they have never met a deaf person, or never had the opportunity to learn about deafness in the words of someone who is deaf.
During the mid-1980s a deaf couple, Gene and Inez Petersen, set out to meet, document, and eventually to publish the life stories of ordinary and extraordinary deaf Americans. Traveling across the country, they conducted videotaped interviews with over 160 people. Inez spent hours transcribing the videotapes. Completed transcripts were then sent to those interviewed for review, correction, approval, and return. Approximately fifty of the approved and returned transcripts were selected for inclusion in the final collection. This manuscript represents deaf Americans from various walks of life--old and young, men and women, blue collar and professionals. Together these stories recount the richness and diversity reflected in the deaf community over the last eight decades.
Tragically, Gene and Inez were both killed in a car accident in 1989, before their dream of publishing their work could be realized. However, before their untimely death, Gene had given copies of the manuscript to several colleagues for review and feedback. Sue Foster, a member of the Department of Research and Teacher Education at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and one of the coordinators of this project, was privileged to be one of these colleagues. She found the manuscript to be truly extraordinary, and as a result, she has pursued various avenues of dissemination for it over the last ten years. After discussions with another NTID colleague, Gail Kovalik Hyde, the decision was made to prepare this manuscript for the World Wide Web, so that the information contained in it would not be lost.
The result is The Gene and Inez Petersen Collection, a web page devoted to the life stories that Gene and Inez had hoped to publish. The credit for the information on these pages belongs to Gene and Inez Petersen. We are only following in their footsteps and, as a tribute to them and to their work, are bringing to you the fruits of their labor of love. The text stands exactly as Gene wrote it, with only minimal corrections. Words in [brackets] throughout the text are clarifications that we have made; words in (parentheses) are little asides added by the Petersens to the life stories as told by each individual. But let's let Gene Peterson, who compiled this manuscript, tell his own story:
You Deaf? Visits with Deaf Americans
Department of Research and Teacher Education
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
Rochester Institute of Technology
52 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester, NY 14623-5604
Dr. Susan Foster
Copyright 1999 Rochester Institute of Technology