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ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Balloon pilots can’t do it without their crew, but what if your crew is deaf? One pilot at Fiesta this year had deaf balloon_NMcrew members, but he says it can be an advantage.

Balloon Pilot Colin Graham has a unique crew – a third of them are deaf or hard of hearing.

So how do they communicate? It just so happens his wife and crew chief Brittany Graham is a sign language interpreter by trade.

“We’re using sign language and English all at the same time. It gets a little confusing, but it’s amazing,” said Brittany Graham.

The crew and its pilot met by chance when the three came to sign up to crew. At first, they didn’t know if they’d find one.

“We were lost. I forced the boys to come in and figure it out with me, to show us where it was, and that exact minute we were walking out, Brittany was walking in and like that, she came up to us. I’m thinking back to that day and thinking, if we hadn’t gotten lost, we would have missed her,” explains Aly Kent.

“I was the one that pointed out to her that they were signing and so I said, hey, look at that, they’re signing,” says Colin Graham.

It was a perfect match. In fact, the Grahams said signing can work to their advantage.

“What’s great about Balloon Fiesta with a group of deaf people is that even in the midst of a crowd or the fans, we can talk from a quarter mile away. Stand on a truck bed, talk across the crowd,” Brittany Graham explained.

Kent said she and her husband, Jason Siergey, wanted to fly last year, but it was just too challenging to communicate.

That’s not the case this year.  Read More. . . .

See Video (not captioned)

Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons, along with Hearing Loss Association of America, has been working with National Public Radio and Towson University for several years to make radio broadcasts accessible.  We are close to the finish line!   Technology now makes it possible for radio broadcasts to be captioned both over the air and online.The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is being asked for a research grant to do for pilot demonstrations in several cities.  We believe CPB is a good match because of its particular responsibility “to encourage the development of programming that involves creative risks and that addresses the needs of unserved and underserved audiences, particularly children and minorities.”

We invite everyone who supports this request for funding to sign onto a letter to Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 

Go to to read the letter and sign on by providing your name and your street address or city/state and email address.

Thanks so much!

Captioned Radio Demonstration
Captioned radio demonstrated on a Sony digital radio