a group of students and staff stand in front of the Black Oak at Lost RIver Vacations with trees in the background.

Why We Created Lost River Vacations

Recently I had the honor of hosting a group of enthusiastic students from West Virginia School for the Deaf at Lost River Vacations, and showing them around our property. Many of them were amazed that Deaf people built Lost River Vacations, and that Deaf people owned this property. As we walked on one of our trails, one of the interpreters told me, “Try to avoid fingerspelling, because many of these students have serious language deprivation. They can’t understand if you fingerspell, but they’ll pretend they do.” 

This got me thinking on my drive home about what we’re trying to accomplish with Lost River Vacations. Our business is much more than tiny homes, getting away in nature, and all of those buzzwords, although we definitely provide those. 

All my life as a profoundly Deaf individual, I have seen the way most hearing people look at and think about Deaf people. They have a lot of pity for us, and when I tell people I’m Deaf, I have lost count of the number of times that they’ve said, “Oh I’m so sorry!” which I truly hate. There’s nothing to be sorry about. The issue is not that we cannot hear, the issue is that the world is not equitable or accessible to us. Ergo, the interpreter isn’t here for me, the interpreter is here for you because you don’t know sign language. We can’t learn to hear, but you can learn sign language. 

Deaf people have not had it easy throughout history. The Milan Conference of 1880 declared oralism was superior to sign language and banned sign language from schools. Deaf people were banned from employment in 1906, and until 1972 they still did not have guaranteed access to public schools. It took the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 to finally prohibit discrimination based on disability. 

Now with the rise of cochlear implants as “fixes” for Deafness, more and more parents are choosing to implant their children early. Implants are a great tool but aren’t a magical solution to fix Deafness. They cannot fix language deprivation. An implanted child is still Deaf and needs access to visual language. We’ve come a long way but we still have a long road ahead. 

Case in point, these Deaf kids (many of them implanted) without enough language acquisition to understand fingerspelled words. Seeing these beautiful kids with such serious language deprivation makes me both sad and angry because I know they are capable of so much more. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t care enough to make their lived experiences accessible. This is why we started this business, and this is why we care so much. 

With more than 90% of our guests being hearing, and many of them having never met a Deaf person before, we have a unique opportunity to truly influence the way these guests perceive Deafness and Deaf people. Maybe years later they will have a Deaf child or grandchild. Maybe they will remember us and our story. Maybe instead of grieving that their baby is Deaf and searching for a magical cure, they’ll learn sign language and give their children access to the world through language and communication. Seeing Deaf people owning businesses and being successful is no small thing. 

If we can make a difference for even one Deaf child, we know we have made a difference in the world. That is why we built Lost River Vacations.

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