2016 National UNITY Conference assemblies to include
interpreters for hearing impaired Native youth participants
Published May 14, 2016
MESA, ARIZONA – The UNITY organization is, for the first time in its history, providing resources for deaf and hard of hearing Native American youth to attend its annual conference in Oklahoma City this summer. UNITY, which stands for United National Indian Tribal Youth, is a national organization promoting personal development, citizenship, and leadership among tribal youth. The 2016 National UNITY Conference is expected to draw as many as 2,000 Native American youth and advisors from around the country.
UNITY Executive Director Mary Kim Titla
Several studies show that hearing loss and deafness rates are higher among Native Americans than the general population, with an estimated 180,000 nationwide. According to a 2006 survey by the National Center for Health Statistics, about 25 percent of the Native American population report having mild to profound hearing loss. In addition, otitis media (middle ear infection) for Native American children is three times the rate than the general population. “Deaf or hard of hearing Native American youth are often marginalized, even within Native communities. UNITY recognizes the importance of being inclusive, which is why it is committed to having interpreters of American Sign Language present at the annual conference. We want all Native American youth, regardless of their backgrounds or disability, to feel welcomed and to enjoy the UNITY experience,” said Mary Kim Titla, (San Carlos Apache) and UNITY’s executive director.
Last year, inclusiveness exceeded U.S. boundaries, with Indigenous youth from Canada, New Zealand and Taiwan attending the National UNITY Conference. “The UNITY model is unique with a focus on empowering Native American youth and providing a platform for their voices to be heard. Their voice matters on all issues. Indigenous youth who hear about UNITY wish to learn about it so they can use UNITY’s model in their homelands. We welcome all Indigenous youth to again attend our conference, including Native Hawaiian youth,” added Titla.
The National UNITY Conference will take place July 22-26, 2016 at the Renaissance Oklahoma City Convention Center. The five-day agenda will feature several nationally known keynote speakers, more than 40 workshops, a cultural exchange night, talent show, and awards gala and dance.
Registration for the National UNITY Conference is now open with a registration rate of $250 until May 31. Those interested in registering can go to www.unityinc.org. Tribes are highly encouraged to send representatives from their communities to participate in the conference that hones leadership skills, encourages peer-to-peer interaction and networking, and celebrates Native American youth.