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The Yosemite National Park Deaf Services Program has been selected as the recipient of the FY 2008 National Park Service Programmatic Accessibility Achievement Award. The award is given to an individual or group who has been responsible for the development, implementation, or improvement of programs and services within the National Park System that exemplify the concept of universal accessibility.
Yosemite National Park is the only national park to establish and maintain a dedicated staff position to the operation of an ongoing Deaf Services Program. The program, established in 1979, is staffed by a professional sign language interpreter. In addition to providing traditional sign language interpretation of ranger-led park programs, the services include programs offered by park partners such as the Delaware North Company, Yosemite Institute, and the Yosemite Association.
"We are extremely proud of this program and feel strongly about the ongoing services that we are able to provide to the deaf and hearing impaired visitors to Yosemite National Park. This award validates our ongoing efforts and we are honored to receive it," stated Mike Tollefson, Yosemite National Park Superintendent.
The program has been a cooperative effort spearheaded by Mary Kline, Yosemite National Park's Branch Chief for Interpretive Services. Since 1994, Kline has been a consistent advocate for the program and has been instrumental in finding funding for the project and equipment every year. For example, she found significant funding to purchase assistive listening devices for each of the park's districts in 2006. Kline and her staff also focus on community outreach and announce the program offerings to a range of local, state, and national deaf organizations on a yearly basis. A special emphasis has been placed on reaching out to the California School for the Deaf, which constitute a high percentage of visitors with hearing limitations.
Mary Kline, along with former Deaf Services Coordinator Nan Oswald, and current Coordinator Karla Stella, traveled to Washington DC to accept the award on behalf of Yosemite National Park.