"We still sign; I don't want to turn the camps into hearing camps. But we use voice more now," said Faber, referring to the hand gesture-based language deaf people commonly use.
Faber, who lost much of her hearing during a childhood illness and is considering having a cochlear implant herself, says the goal of the camp -- as well as the other deaf-focused, district programs that focus on arts, sports, dancing and the teen club -- is to "build up their self-esteem so they feel like they can do anything in the hearing world."
"We're born into the hearing world and we have to survive there," said Faber, 39.
Faber must navigate a tightrope in the deaf community. Though more than 100,000 adults and children worldwide now have the implants, according to the National Institutes of Health, some deaf people feel medical advances may squash the teaching of American Sign Language and threaten "deaf identity."
The issue erupted this year when some students at Gallaudet University, a Washington, D.C.-based deaf institution, protested the appointment of Jane K. Fernandes as its new president. Though deaf, Fernandes grew up speaking and reading lips, attended mainstream schools and universities and only as an adult learned to sign. Fernandes told National Public Radio that the objections are part of "identity politics about who is deaf and who can speak to deaf people."
Jacob Hickey, 23, a Camp Sign counselor who wears hearing aids, speaks clearly and uses sign language, finds the issue tiresome.
What's most important is developing social skills because deafness can be isolating, he said. When Hickey was a child, the nearest deaf person lived two hours a way.
Camp Sign runs from June 28 through Aug. 8. Open to kids ages 6 to 10, it costs $210. For more information on park district programs, see www.chicagoparkdistrict.com or call (312) 742-PLAY