By Jonah Carino
Ka La staff writer
“Cadet Ferdinand Bermudez reporting for duty, sir.”
Fingers fly and a woman shouts. Bermudez stands at attention.
“At ease,” the sergeant orders.
Bermudez, a Honolulu Community College student, is in the Reserve Officer Training program at UH-Manoa. But current rules won’t allow him to ever join the military when he graduates.
Bermudez is Deaf.
A student at Honolulu Community College, Bermudez relies on a sign interpreter to help him with his ROTC work, but someday he and others with hearing impairments might have the chance to serve their country in uniform thanks to technology still in its infancy.
While those without hearing impairments have the advantage of being able to follow verbal commands, deaf people can sense noise and are sometimes more attuned to visual input.
Small devices that output sensitive sound, strobe lights, or vibrations could help Bermudez to participate in training exercises.
Bermudez, 28, is studying to become an airplane mechanic. He plans to graduate in three years.
Sgt. James Solano helped Bermudez by working to improve disability access for his training class.
Before that, Bermudez shared aspects of deaf culture and pieces of deaf history with Solano.
A sergeant asked Bermudez about his plans for the future. Bermudez’s eyes lit up and his hands listed his goals and dreams. “I plan on graduating in 2017, then possibly joining the military,” Bermudez said through his interpreter.
“But you’re deaf,” the sergeant said.
“Things are always changing in the military,” Bermudez said. “At one time, minorities couldn’t serve with whites, women were not permitted, homosexuals were barred. I want to show the military that the Deaf can serve their country. When they change their requirements, I will be ready.”