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COE American Sign Language lecturer Christopher Patterson signs acceptance speech after receiving a statewide award for his work advocating for the deaf community

A good sign: COE lecturer honored for advocacy for the deaf

Christopher Patterson, a faculty member in the College of Education’s department of communication sciences and special education, received the 2012 Georgia Deaf Community Leader Award.

Michael Childs | October 17th, 2012  |  Published in CSSE, Features

Ellen Rolader, Georgia Outreach Coordinator for Hamilton Relay, presents the award to Patterson at an Aderhold Hall reception.

University of Georgia College of Education lecturer Christopher Patterson is different than other faculty at UGA. His lectures do not drone on. In fact, he doesn’t speak at all.

Patterson, who is deaf, uses sign language to deliver his lectures, advise his students and communicate with others on and off campus.  He has become a force for advocacy for individuals who are deaf, devoting countless hours of his time on a local as well as national level.

His work encouraging empowerment for individuals who are deaf was recently recognized when he received the 2012 Georgia Deaf Community Leader Award from Hamilton Relay, the service provider for telecommunication relay services in Georgia.

Patterson, an American Sign Language (ASL) Lecturer and advisor to the ASL Dawgs Club since 2011, is a faculty member in the college’s department of communications sciences and special education.

The communication sciences program at UGA prepares students to become professionals who provide prevention, evaluation and intervention services for clients from birth to adult with speech, language, voice, resonance, swallowing or hearing disorders. The program in Speech-Language Pathology is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and approved by the Georgia Department of Education.

The award was recently presented to Patterson at a small gathering of his friends, students and colleagues at Aderhold Hall in which sign language was almost exclusively used in both the presentation and his acceptance.

In accepting the award, Patterson, signed that he could tell there was more public awareness of people with hearing disability in the Athens community and that the UGA program was responsible for much of that.

“I went to My Pie the other day and I began to point at pictures of the stuff I wanted on my pizza because I’m used to having to do that to communicate,” he signed as a colleague interpreted. “But I was pleasantly surprised, when the person at the counter started signing back. And I thought, wow. That’s really cool. The awareness is really growing. ”

Patterson has been a strong advocate for communication accessibility and interpreting services for individuals who are deaf. He was actively involved with the Georgia Advocacy Office to ensure that medical professionals have the resources to provide effective communication. He also worked to partner Georgia Association of the Deaf (GAD) and Georgia Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf to host workshops for deaf individuals looking to become Certified Deaf Interpreters. Additionally, he advocated for the State of Georgia to accept ASL as a foreign language in the public schools.

Patterson advocated for the state to adopt the Deaf Child Bill of Rights and was co-chair of the first Deaf Children’s Literacy Benefit Gala in Atlanta, which gained exposure to ASL and literacy issues surrounding children who are deaf and hard of hearing.

From 2011-12, Patterson served as director of the Junior GAD, a program which offers deaf and hard of hearing students in 7th through 12th grade opportunities to develop leadership skills, learn and demonstrate citizenship, and interact with students from other schools and states. He has served as a Region III representative to the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and will serve as conference chair hosting the NAD Conference in Atlanta in 2014.
He also served as board member, officer, vice president and president of the GAD from 2004-10 and has served as chair of fundraising and conferences since 2003.

Before coming to UGA, Patterson was a teacher at Atlanta Area School for the Deaf from 2005-09 and a lecturer at Troy University in Troy, Ala., from 2010-11. During his tenure, he served as an advisor to Troy University’s Interpreter Training Program before coming to UGA in 2011.

Patterson received his B.A. in special education from Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, GA., in 2000, his master’s in deaf education from Georgia State University in 2008 and an educational specialist degree from Mercer University in 2010. He is currently working on a doctorate in elementary education at UGA.


Michael Childs is Director of Public Information at the UGA College of Education.

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