'Shut Up and Sign' DVD speaks to hearing and deaf community


You may know the words to "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night", but can you sign them?

Bob Hiltermann, 60, is a deaf actor taking his show to a hearing audience.

His goal is to break down barriers between the hearing and the hearing impaired.

"They're not different than hearing people," said Hiltermann. "They're all the same. They're not lesser citizens. We're exactly the same, just a different language that's it."

He's successful now, but as a child who lost his hearing to spinal meningitis he felt discriminated against.

"I had been mocked at, made fun at, called stupid and dumb," said Hiltermann.

Hearing impaired students like Solanj Mandani feel the same way.

"I'm in a class and they think I can't talk," said Mandani.

Hiltermann believes if everyone learned how to sign young people like Solanj wouldn't be left out.

He's developed a series of DVD's, called "Shut Up and Sign!" aimed at teaching the hearing how to sign.

DVD co-creator Marty Elcan says sign language is useful to the hearing as well.

"Construction workers who are working in loud areas and can't hear each other or scuba divers or firefighters, I mean, there are so many opportunities," said Elcan.

At Burbank High School, sign language is taught to 500 students a semester, the goal is to mainstream deaf students.

It's made a huge difference to many as has meeting a performer like Bob.

"I was so impressed with his drumming and everything. It was just such an enjoyment to watch," said Patty Ivanko who attends Burbank High School. "It just made me feel like I can do anything I want to do in life, no one can oppress me, no one can hold me down."

To encourage more people, Bob's made a new holiday signing DVD out Wednesday.

For more information, visit www.shutupandsign.com

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