Young Joo Byun is multilingual in an unusual way – she speaks Korean and English and also communicates through Korean and Auslan sign language.
After a serious illness when six months old, Ms Byun’s mother suspected she had trouble hearing. This suspicion grew when Ms Byun’s younger brother started exceeding her in childhood milestones, and her deafness was confirmed when she was five years old.
Ms Byun attended primary school for hearing impaired children when she younger. Theere she met the boy who would become her future husband and learnt dancing and art, which were important ways for the children to express themselves.
But when it was time for high school, Ms Byun’s mother sent her to a mainstream school that did not teach dancing.
Ms Byun says her mother did not want to admit that there was something wrong with her.
“By sending me to the local school she hoped I would suddenly become ‘normal’ and start to hear and speak,” Ms Byun said.
Ms Byun never lost her love of dancing and she recently performed a traditional Korean dance, Ari-Rang, at the Parramatta launch event of Ability Links NSW.
Through the support of Ability Links NSW staff known as ‘Linkers’ , the program provides people with disability a locally based first point of contact to support them to access services in their local communities.
Linkers work with people, their families and carers to help them plan for their future, build on their strengths and skills, and develop networks in their own communities.
Settlement Services International (SSI), in partnership St Vincent de Paul and UnitingCare, is funded by the NSW Government to deliver Ability Links NSW throughout 60 LGAs in NSW.
SSI Linker Cecilia Jeongmin Park and Ms Byun met through their work with people with disability, and they have become friends and collaborators on projects in the Korean community.
“Ability Links can help be a bridge between the Korean community and quality links needed for people with disability to help them become more valued members of their local community,” Ms Park said.
“Many SSI Linkers are bilingual so this will be an extra help for parents, and people with disability, in finding what they want to do with their life.”