UAA student makes history as first deaf commencement speaker

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - On Sunday, Katie Irwin addressed the crowd at the Alaska Airlines Center as the University of Alaska Anchorage's commencement speaker. She was in front of a crowd of thousands, sharing a message she said her mother often told her.

"Take it one day at a time," Irwin said.

Irwin is UAA's first deaf commencement speaker. She was born deaf and said she doesn't view being deaf as a disability.

"We can do anything really," Irwin said via a translator. "We have our own language, we have the ability to communicate. It's just a different way of communicating."

Still, receiving a degree in journalism with a minor in art did not come without challenges.

"It's really teachers trying to understand captioning videos, and how to use captioning videos," Irwin said. "I did a lot of teaching the teachers on how to use captions."

Irwin made changes at UAA and leaves behind a legacy: Through her independent study courses, Irwin reportedly helped increase the effectiveness of Disability Student Support Services at UAA.

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