“This program has given me many opportunities — equal access to knowledge and experience and skills and has been extremely inspiring,” Tissa Abeykoon signed. “I’ve learned a lot.”

Abeykoon is one of a handful of deaf students who took the class. He’s from Maryland where he said he had previously tried to take a CNA class.

“It was extremely hard because I became frustrated. There was a lot of hearing people, and I was the only deaf person involved in the class,” Abeykoon signed. “It was hard to communicate with the teacher. It was hard to communicate with the other students. I felt there was a communication barrier.”

He eventually withdrew from that class but kept looking for others. That’s when he found that a class was being offered at The Independence Center that included an American Sign Language interpreter and a deaf interpreter.