Deaf culture is `DEAF-initely’ part of history

The concept of forming the huddle in football originated when a group of deaf players who used a series of signals and hand gestures to communicate needed to conceal their plays.

The baseball umpire's strike signal was born in the 19th century when deaf outfielder, “Dummy” Hoy asked an umpire to give signals so he would know whether the call was a ball or a strike.

These and other tidbits-o-deaf trivia were among topics of discussion at the DEAF-initely History presentation in the Campus Center Bookstore last Wednesday. To an audience of about three dozen people, some who are deaf or hearing impaired, some who are learning to sign, Sue Bahleda conducted a presentation discussing the various dynamics of sign language and the many historical contributions deaf people have made to society.

“The goal is to tap the surface knowledge people have about deaf culture and broaden that awareness,” Bahleda said.

Bahleda is the Disability Support Services coordinator and the Interpreting Services coordinator for the American Sign Language program at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Wednesday's presentation was part of the annual five-day celebration of deaf awareness on campus. Deaf Awareness Week is held the last week of September.

Bahleda said it's important to acknowledge and celebrate the deaf community that has its own culture and has made distinct contributions to society.

“There's so much to learn,” Bahleda said.

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UAA has offered ASL as a language option for general education requirements since 1998, and Bahleda said that the communication gap between deaf people and those who are not audibly challenged is closing.

“Things are changing. More people can sign to the deaf, which helps take some of the responsibility (of communicating) away from a deaf person,” Bahleda said.