Alan “AlB” Barwiolek

Alan Barwiolek, who helped found the New York Deaf Theater as part of a lifelong campaign to improve things for those in the silent world he was consigned to at birth, died on Wednesday at Roosevelt Hospital. He was 43 and had been associate professor of sign language studies at Union College in Plainfield, N.J.

His companion, Tony Allicino, said that Mr. Barwick, who had AIDS, collapsed and died at the door to the hospital’s outpatient clinic. He had arrived to get a blood transfusion after spending a typically strenuous week conducting workshops and making personal appearances on behalf of the deaf.

In a nation in which 25 million people have some hearing impairment, Mr. Barwiolek, or Al B, as he was known to those who found Barwiolek (pronounced BAR-we-oh-lick) as difficult to sign as to spell, was among the 2.5 million or so who are profoundly deaf, unable to hear at all.

Mr. Barwiolek, a native of Greensburg, Pa., whose parents were also deaf and who had a deaf sister, was known as strong deaf, a term meaning the condition has a strong genetic component. Growing up deaf in a deaf family left Mr. Barwiolek with no sense of personal limitation, although it must have appeared quixotic when, as the first member of his family to attend college, he chose to major in drama with the intention of becoming an actor.

Source: New York Times | Submitted by Gene Bourquin


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