Hi Michael, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I’m behavioral therapist and Deaf and Disability rights advocate. I work to ensure that Deaf and Hard of Hearing people are welcomed, have accessibility and included in contemporary society.
Being Deaf myself and growing up in Compton I felt invisible in my community. My parents, who are immigrants from Ghana, treated me equally to how they treated my hearing siblings. But still, I always knew that i was different.
Not having anyone to guide me or lead me I felt lost as I lacked sound and I lacked identity. I wasn’t aware of American Sign Language, I was searching for who I am, and I wanted to be a part of my community. Ultimately I had to change myself to fit into a society that wasn’t accommodating to his disability by taking speech therapy, learning how to read lips and speak with my voice.
Not realizing my identity I didn’t know there was a word for people like me until college:: Deaf. Empowered by learning American Sign Language (ASL) while earning my bachelor’s degree, at California State University Northridge I began to see the need for Deaf advocacy. I became determined to break the barrier that exists between the Hearing and Deaf worlds and an advocate for Deaf and Hard of Hearing youth to be exposed to sign language and Deaf culture to help them know they are part of a beautiful vibrant community
After College I continued working to be an advocate for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.in various compacities. Last year I was given the opportunity to be part of Tedx Compton Blvd as speaker Inspired by my Tedx Talk I gave virtually, I wanted to create change in Compton for the Deaf, and people with disabilities. So I created Compton ASL Club during the global pandemic online to be an open and safe space for the Compton community and beyond to learn ASL bridging the gap with communication access between the Deaf and Hearing while bringing awareness creating a platform to share about Deaf culture, celebrate their achievements, social advocacy and accessibility. The Deaf awareness and social advocacy is a big part of what I do with the teaching. As we support the community in anything, they want to know Deaf related or resources as we get a lot of DMs to be part of projects. Lastly, Compton ASL Club is to facilitate helping people understanding of Deaf people especially Deaf BIPOC and POC and their experiences. We also provide outreach, done toy drives for youth with disabilities created ASL tee shirts to bring awareness and I had the City of Compton acknowledge Deaf awareness month making our city more accessible by making the people become more aware that Deaf and Hard of Hearing people exist.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
It’s been a transitional road, one of the major things the Pandemic did was make things extremely hard for Deaf people/ people who struggle with hearing loss to be part of the world. When you lose the ability to read people lips or be able to not see people facial expressions, it’s harder to navigate and made me realize the need for Compton ASL Club because I knew If more people learned ASL not only would people like me could be part of the world again but people will be picking up a new language which In hindsight bridges the Deaf and Hearing together. Naturally teaching would be much easier in person because sometimes technology has its problems and sometimes people can get discouraged and may not want to come back on IG Live to learn. But I made sure to make the space safe and fun and enjoyable so people would want to come back and I made things relevant to what was going on ie. Black Lives Matter/ The president election/ Compton musings And I’m not not an ASL teacher in the traditional sense but doing this has made me more comfortable in being in front of a camera because I know the people who are watching are learning and that brings me all kinds of joy. And I would love help to bring more awareness since I’m mainly a one man show would love to build team and if you’re interested I want you!! join us!!! definitely looking collaborate with others!
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
Professionally I’m a behavior therapist. I work mostly with Deaf youth with autism/disabilities. I’m known for few things a mentor to youth with disabilities, an advocate for people with disabilities a consultant for inclusion and accessibility, Disability Justice activist Tedx speaker, Sports accessibility advocate Nonprofit / Government gru /disabilities advisor and lastly professional hugger! What I’m most proud of there a lot but one thing is for the last 20 years, I’ve been a volunteer with majority of those years being a co-counselor with the California Youth Leadership Forum for youth with disabilities its a summer program that I never miss because it gives me the opportunity to help shape the next generation educated, confident, independent youth with disabilities and my joy is seeing these young people of disabilities grow up into amazing people doing great things. What sets me apart from others is probably my mantra of attitude of gratitude which is three main things do good, give back and be a blessing to others. I try to apply this in all areas of my life and professionally. I had my fair struggles as being a black man dealing his own disability being Deaf and despite the setbacks and challenges, you can still live an inspired life especially through perseverance, humor, purpose.
What would you say have been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
That you got to believe in what you’re doing, once you do that, anything is possible. When I created Compton ASL Club, I was like would anyone come to these online classes do anyone want to actually see me teach or care about what I have to say or share. But once I removed that doubt out of my head and realized that my purpose is to build that bridge in my community so people can learn to be in more harmony, you realize being Deaf isn’t the problem it’s the environment change that and then you create balance which leads to harmony a more inclusive and accessible city.
- Website: www.michaelagyin.com
- Instagram: @ComptonASLClub @Mikeyisjusssayin
- Facebook: Michael Agyin
- Email: Comptonaslclub@gmail.com