Several U-M students, accompanied by Assistant Professor Natasha Abner, a sign language researcher, visited Flint last Friday and Saturday to conduct town hall events with the local Deaf community to gather information about their experience of the Flint water crisis. 

The town halls are part of an honors thesis project conducted by Alice Hanlon, an undergraduate student in the Program in the Environment, whom Abner advises. 

“Events like the Water Crisis disproportionately affect marginalized communities, and we know that's true in Flint,” says Abner. “Moreover, because of access issues including lack of ASL-English interpreting, not only are Deaf people likely to be even more acutely impacted by events like these, but their experiences are often not part of narrative.” 

There is a large Deaf community located in and around Flint, explains Abner, in part because it's the home of the Michigan School for the Deaf. 

Margaret Peters, a research assistant in the Sign Language and Multi-Modal Communication Lab, who is herself a former student of the Michigan School for the Deaf, facilitated the town halls. 

Linguistics graduate students Marjorie Herbert and L.R. 'Nik' Nikolai provided research assistance and support for the town halls.

In addition to gathering information about the Deaf community’s experience of the Flint water crisis, the project aims to provide a platform for their stories to be part of narrative.

View the local news coverage.