One deaf California woman with a passion for the high skies hopes to earn her pilot’s license next month through a special program at Purdue University Airport.
As Julia Velasquez prepares to take the test for the coveted license in July, she says the seven-week opportunity, made possible through a scholarship, is a dream come true.
“Ever since I was little, I have always been fascinated by the sky. I’ve always wanted to fly,” Velasquez said through an interrupter, Fox 59 reports.
The ninth annual Able Flight scholarship program funds pilot lessons for individuals with physical disabilities, and is hosted in West Lafayette, Ind. Velasquez is one of four students in the program this summer, and all are eager to hopefully earn their licenses within the next few weeks.
"We can do the same things as everybody else," Velasquez said. "We want to be equal. We want to come up with creative solutions to make it work."
To that end, though most of the Purdue flight instructors are not trained in sign language, they are embracing creativity in instructing the students.
“I didn’t know any sign language when I first met Julia," instructor Andrea Hynek, a rising Purdue senior, told Fox 59. "I wanted to communicate with her as best as I can, so I learned the [alphabet] and that helps a lot."
From spelling out words to Velasquez or writing down instructions, Hynek and Velasquez have established multiple methods of successful discussion from takeoff to landing.
“There’s a lot of teamwork," Velasquez said. "A lot of communication."
After hopefully earning her pilot’s license, Velasquez says her next dream is become an astronaut. In the meantime, she hopes to help other deaf individuals earn their pilot’s licenses, as well.
According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, there are currently about 200 deaf pilots across the country, Fox 59 reports.