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Millcreek Journal

USDB students open new lines of communication with lawmakers during Day on the Hill

Mar 16, 2020 01:46PM ● By Katy Whittingham

Rep. Dan Johnson communicates with a young USDB student. (Photo by Todd Keith/USDB)

By Katy Whittingham | [email protected]

On Jan. 9, 40 students from Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind (USDB) participated in this year’s Day on the Hill field visit to the Capital to thank the legislator in person for funding for their schools and programs. However, it’s clear the representatives themselves are also very thankful for this annual visit as Rep. Martha Judkins expressed, “Thank you! It’s my favorite day when USDB visits!”

This year students wanted to offer an additional benefit for officials beyond just observing lessons as they had in the past, so they taught them improved ways to communicate with individuals who are hard of hearing, deaf, blind, visually impaired or deaf-blind, and it proved to be a great addition. “This was the best Day on the Hill. We had more legislators come see the students than we’ve had in all the years I have been here,” said USDB’s Tammy Flint.

Participants this year included students from the new Springville school in Utah County, the SLC campus, high school students and graduates from Ogden, and elementary students from Millcreek.

Students who are deaf and use American Sign Language (ASL) taught lawmakers some common signs, while students with hearing impairments provided suggestions for communicating with those who wear a hearing aid or have cochlear implants. Students who are blind showed lawmakers how to navigate with a white cane, taught Braille code and showed them how to use screen reader technology.

Rep. Adam Robinson called the experience a “delight” and the students he met “friends.” He was taught to sign a few words and phrases; for example, “I like rainbow unicorns.” “Thanks for making my day,” he said.

This sentiment was shared by Rep. Lee Perry, who took a tour with a student who taught him to use a white cane while wearing low-vision goggles. “I can’t tell you what an amazing experience it was,” he said. “I’m glad we have people who can teach the students orientation and mobility. That was so much more difficult than any drunk goggles I ever wore while I was a state trooper. Utah supports these kids and their programs, and we need to continue to support them.”

USDB is a national model for helping students who are deaf, blind or deaf-blind reach their individual academic, social and career potential in creative and caring ways, and has served these populations for 100 years. Programs are varied and offered from as young as birth to post graduate. To learn more about their personalized approach, please visit

Sen. Kathleen Riebe thanked USDB and asked to be included in every opportunity for future events. “Your students are incredible,” she said. “Every time I meet them I walk away awestruck.”

In addition to the generous funding provided by the Utah legislator for buildings, teachers, staff and books, the USDB Education Foundation helps provides extras based on need, including unique educational opportunities and advanced technology, with 100% of donations going directly to the students. For more information or to donate, visit To make a donation in person, by mail or by phone, contact Susan Thomas at 801-889-6964.