Toronto

Toronto's Deaf Night Out brings hundreds together to celebrate community and culture

Saturday's Deaf Night Out gave members of both the deaf and hearing communities in Toronto the opportunity to connect and celebrate deaf culture and sign languages.

Halloween-themed party 'has grown exponentially' over 3 years, organizer says

Organizers say the Deaf Night Out Halloween party event, which started three years ago, now attracts hundreds of people. (Submitted by Deaf Night Out)

Deaf Night Out gave members of both the deaf and hearing communities in Toronto the opportunity to connect and celebrate deaf culture and sign languages.

The event was held Saturday night at Lithuanian House on Bloor Street West. According to organizer Emmanuel Sohou, the Halloween party event — which started three years ago — is now an annual affair attracting hundreds of people.

"It was just a small event at the time and now it has grown exponentially," Sohou told CBC Toronto through interpreter Christopher Desloges — who is also president of Toronto Sign Language Interpreter Service.

"We want the deaf people to be able to come and have their own Halloween event, where they can socialize and learn and be with each other, the same as like a family. We're a family and we're together, so we try to do this every year."

Deaf Night Out organizer Emmanuel Sohou, right, and president of Toronto Sign Language Interpreter Service Christopher Desloges. (Angelina King/CBC)

In addition to the Canadian performers who provided entertainment for the night, there were also entertainers from the United States. Many of the performers are deaf.

Guests also flew in from as far away as Europe for Toronto's Deaf Night Out.

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      Few events for members of deaf community

      Sohou says while people in the deaf community often go to events, there are very few that allow them to get together and communicate using American Sign Language (ASL).

      "Some people graduate from school and move away, move out of town," he said. "Our goal is to bring back all of our old friends from all over the place."

      Nachiket Ghaneker, right, and Desloges. (Michael Rich/CBC)

      Nachiket Ghaneker said he loves attending deaf events. In addition to Deaf Night Out, he tries not to miss ASL Coffee, which is held every month.

      "If I stay at home it's so boring and I don't have the same opportunity to meet people, and Deaf Night Out, and ASL Coffee as well, are great social events," Ghaneker told CBC Toronto through Desloges . "It's really fun to be able to see new faces and to be able to learn, because for me I'm still learning ASL. I'm still meeting people and I've made some good friends. I've been coming for three years and still there's lots of new faces.

      "It's important to have fun, to be able to meet new people who have different jobs and different experiences and to be able to learn from each one of them. I like to learn from lots of different people and to learn about culture," Ghaneker added.

      Everyone can learn to sign, Sohou says

      Meanwhile, Sohou said members of the hearing community who want to learn deaf culture and to learn sign language are welcome to attend events hosted by the deaf community.

      "It's the same idea if you're learning French, you need to be immersed in the language to be able to learn it," he explained.

      "For ASL it's the same idea — you need to be immersed. So, we have these events to help people be immersed in sign language and to be able to develop their ability and socialize here."

      Sohou is assuring members of the hearing community who wish to learn sign language that "it's not too difficult."

      "We want them to learn from the deaf community, and once they learn ASL from the deaf community, they'll be fine because it's not too hard to learn. Just as a baby can learn to sign, a hearing person can learn to sign with us," Sohou said.

      With files from CBC's Angelina King