Traveling to 81 countries; climbing a 1,109-foot-tall tower in Macau, China; and eating insects are all part of Joel Barish’s job description.
The Buda resident co-founded DeafNation, which is headquartered in Southwest Austin business park The Manchac and produces events and online video content for the deaf community. As CEO of the local company and the host of its show “No Barriers,” Barish, who is deaf, travels to conduct interviews and try adventurous things to inspire others to live without fear.
Deaf people with interesting jobs—from an author in Austin to a seal hunter in Greenland—are also featured on the website in interviews. Seeing successful professionals can inspire young people, Barish said.
“[I] met some government officials,” Barish said in an email. “They were shocked that I don’t bring [an]interpreter with me.”
Founded in 2003 in Maryland, the company also organizes DeafNation Expo events throughout the U.S. The company makes money through exhibitors, sponsors and advertisers.
DeafNation moved its operations to Austin in 2010. Deaf people, hearing people who know American Sign Language and students are among the site’s audience, Barish said.
Barish has filmed a few videos in Austin, such as tours of local coffee roasters and interviews with deaf victims of flooding in South Austin.
“I want to share interesting and unique stories [with] local people, even out of state people, about Austin,” he said.
DeafNation’s goals include being able to provide 24-hour news in sign language as well as increasing its focus on DeafNation Expos, DeafNation CEO Joel Barish said.
Expos combine the feeling of a trade show with that of a local fair and help deaf people to celebrate being part of a community, said Lisa Wrench, chairwoman of the board of DeafNation.
“Deaf people are born into every demographic. … But this beautiful thread connects them,” Wrench said.
Deaf and hearing communities can connect using DeafNation, she said, explaining educating the hearing community on needs is a goal of the organization.
Sign language classes
Local resources are available for hearing people who want to learn American Sign Language, DeafNation CEO Joel Barish said.
Barish said he recommends classes at Austin Community College, which operates a South Austin campus at 1820 W. Stassney Lane and the Pinnacle campus at 7748 W. Hwy. 290.
ACC offers ASL classes at the Pinnacle campus, Department Chair Fallon Brizendine said.
ACC also has a Certificate Program for American Sign Language Studies and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Interpreter Preparation. The certificate requires at least three semesters and is intended for people who want to be fluent in ASL but not necessarily be an interpreter.
Demand in Austin exceeds the number of qualified professionals, so jobs are plentiful, she said.