AUGUSTA — In celebration of Deaf culture, the heritage of American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf literature, art and folklore, Gov. Janet T. Mills has issued a proclamation designating the week of Sept. 20-26 as Deaf Culture Week.

The Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened will hold its 29th annual award ceremony and tea on Thursday, Sept. 17 from 2 to 4 p.m. virtually.

“The Deaf community has its own rich language, culture, history and traditions which have shaped our state for generations. The many contributions of deaf people to the State of Maine should be celebrated every day of every week,” said Gov. Mills. “I would like to congratulate the individuals who are receiving awards. You are leaders in our state, and I thank you for everything you have done for the people of Maine.”

This year, the commission will present seven awards in seven categories to individuals who have contributed to Deaf culture in Maine. Award recipients are:

Clifton F. Rodgers Lifetime Achievement Award — Karen Hopkins

Ginny Hewes Advocate for the Needs of the Deaf Community Award — Mary Jane “MJ” Grant

Special Commendation Award — Emily Blachly

Special Recognition Award — Maria P. Jacques

Promoting ASL, Deaf Culture and Deaf People Award — Bryer McDougall

Outstanding Citizenship Award — Dave Bouchard

Citizenship Youth Award — Kamron King

Tommy Minch will give the keynote address.

If you are interested in attending virtually please contact Nancy Winter at There is a limit of 100 people; however, it will be recorded and posted on the Division for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened website for future viewing.

The Division of the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened, part of the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) in the Maine Department of Labor, works to bring about full access to employment, independence and community integration for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

For more information about hiring people with disabilities or identifying job training resources for people with disabilities, visit your local CareerCenter, call 1-855-ALL-HIRE (TTY users call Maine Relay 711).

The Maine Department of Labor is an equal opportunity provider. Auxiliary aids and services are available to individuals with disabilities upon request.