A Villager who was part of a lawsuit that is being blamed for the decision to dissolve the Villages Lifelong Learning College, is speaking out for the first time since the bombshell announcement.
Villagers were shocked when Villages Charter School Director Randy McDaniel made the announcement this week that the spring semester was canceled and the Lifelong Learning College would be immediately dissolved.
“I am deeply saddened that the Lifelong Learning College has chosen to retaliate against members of the deaf community in The Villages by closing its doors,” said Louis Schwarz, a longtime leader in the deaf community in The Villages.
The closing will impact a reported 18,000 Villages who take part in classes at the college which has been a Villages institution for more than a decade.
After attempts to work with the Lifelong Learning College and its refusal to provide an accommodation that would allow deaf individuals to equally participate in the courses offered, there was no choice but to file a lawsuit, Schwarz said.
“I participated in bringing this lawsuit because I wanted an equal opportunity to learn and grow at the Lifelong Learning College, just like all Villages residents who enjoy the classes offered by the college. When I tried to enroll, the Lifelong Learning College refused to provide an effective accommodation that would allow me to understand course content and to equally participate in the class. Randy McDaniel’s statement that the Lifelong Learning College has offered the deaf community reasonable accommodations, such as a hearing interpreter for any class we wished to attend for almost eight years, is simply untrue,” he said.
Schwarz said he is upset that the Lifelong Learning College is closing.
“But I am confused as to why the deaf residents are being held responsible for the college’s closure, as the Lifelong Learning College has been doing business as usual, effectively denying deaf persons from equally participating in its classes, without paying for any effective accommodations,” he said.
He added that he hopes The Villages community will remain open to the deaf residents’ perspective and desire for equal treatment, rather than to rely on “the unflattering and untruthful portrait painted by the Lifelong Learning College’s statements.”
Since 2007, Schwarz has been campaigning for captions on local TV, qualified interpreters for all events in which deaf residents want to take part in, and for captioned emergency/critical alerts/news.