A survivor of Language Deprivation and married for forty years to a partner who was illiterate until approximately age twelve/thirteen years-old when he was finally allowed to learn sign, Jenny “J5” Witteborg is passionate about ensuring no more Deaf and Hard-of-hearing kids are left behind due to audistic and phonocentric policies that forbid the use of American Sign Language - or the Sign Language Indigenous to the Deaf/HoH child.
Jenny J5 learned sign at age eighteen at Mesa Community College in San Diego, California, and went to Gallaudet University (then College) 1979 - 1983, graduating with a BA in Government. There, she met and later married her Gallaudet sweetheart: Raj Witteborg from New York. They have five CODAs and will soon be blessed with their 10th and 11th GODAs (Grandbabies of Deaf Adults).
Jenny J5 loves to play card games, board games, pingpong, pickleball, as well as cerebral activities of debating, analyzing, re-learning, and continuing to learn.
From 2005 - 2014, Jenny J5 (self-taught) filmed, edited (Adobe), and produced Witty Productions, LLC documentary films as well as two ASL DVDs with a colleague. Jenny J5 /Witty Productions, LLC has discontinued film productions and strengthened work with Mixed media/J5 Clay, as well as an ASL tutor, Deaf interpreter, and an Advocate.
Once her children flew the coop by 2011, Jenny J5 went back to Gallaudet to pursue an MA in Deaf Studies (ABT), and was empowered to understand why the current audistic phonocentric system has created a deluge of language deprived Deaf and hard-of-hearing kids even in the 21st century. That reignited her passion for being involved with policy that governs our system: medical, educational, and parental resources as this intersects with racial and economic imparity.
In 2016, Jenny J5, with two other Deaf women, started the Virginia advocacy journey to bring a state bill into state law:
LEAD-K (Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf - Kindergarten Ready) was signed into law April 2022, and started the state’s first ad hoc (temporary) advisory specifically pertaining to language acquisition screening tests in American Sign Language and English. They are to implement the renamed project: Virginia Supplemental Early Language and Literacy Resources for Deaf/Hard of Hearing (VA SELLR-DHH) later this year 2023.
SELLR-DHH implementation and annual data collection on Deaf/Hard of Hearing Children age birth to 5 years of age will be overseen by the Virginia Department of Education, Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, as well as Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
April 2022, Jenny J5 graduated from Virginia Partners in Policy Making, which has increased her advocacy skills. Jenny J5 looks forward to seeing VALIDEAF meeting the gap of American Sign Language and Deaf Interpreters/Language models in early intervention, families’ homes, educational settings, as well as medical arenas.