Seawolves embrace Deaf Awareness Week

Alex Kucera, an American Sign Language student interpreter, signs “DAW” for Deaf Awareness Week. Photo by Kayla McGraw.
Alex Kucera, an American Sign Language student interpreter, signs “DAW” for Deaf Awareness Week. Photos by Kayla McGraw.

It started out as a general education course to fill a void on her transcripts. Psychology student Katie Browning said after taking one American Sign Language course, she eventually took every ASL course offered by the university.

“I had a deaf teacher who made it so much fun. She was so passionate, and I just fell in love,” said Browning, who is also the president of the ASL Club.

Browning fell in love with the Deaf culture, which incorporates ASL.

UAA celebrates Deaf Awareness Week from Sept. 22-29. Browning said the ASL Club will host various events to bring together people, both deaf and hearing, to raise awareness about deaf people and Deaf culture.

“Deaf culture is primarily about socialization, being able to communicate with similar people. It implies that they use ASL to communicate, rather than methods such as oralism, or lip reading,” said Marina Kreuzenstein, technical coordinator for the ASL Club.

“Deaf people take pride in their culture,” Kreuzenstein continued.

Elementary education major Jesse Isaguirre, who is hard of hearing, encourages interaction regardless of whether students know how to sign or not.

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“Don’t be scared! You can start off by waving your hands at them (deaf students) to get their attention. Try to write to them on a paper, or use your phone and show them what you are texting about,” Isaguirre said.

Or better yet, as Isaguirre suggests, jump right in and learn a word or two in ASL.

Not all deaf or hard of hearing students use ASL. Some read lips. Some use hearing aids or cochlear implants. Some use ASL interpreters in class, while some do not. Some identify themselves as hard of hearing or as deaf. There is a wide spectrum.

Yvonne Silvira, who is taking general courses, said as someone who has deaf brothers, she is happy to see UAA bringing awareness to the masses on campus.

In addition to ASL courses, she has learned a great deal from her brother’s 5-year-old, who is a child of a deaf adult, or CODA. Her brothers interact with her through reading lips, talking and ASL.

Browning said throughout Deaf Awareness Week, the ASL club will have a booth where members will promote off-campus events and give out buttons. The Diversity Action council is also sponsoring a screening of the film “Children of a Lesser God” on Sept. 29.

Browning said ASL Club meetings are at 2 p.m. the first and third Sunday of every month in the Lyla Richards Room in the Student Union.

Their statement is, “We are the American Sign Language club at UAA. We strive to be involved in the Deaf community and to plan events for UAA students to meet and interact with the deaf in order to raise awareness.”

All those interested in learning more about ASL and Deaf culture are invited.

For more information about specific dates and times for events, email aslclub.uaa@gmail.com.

 

BASIC TERMS TO KNOW:
Definitions provided by Marina Kreuzenstein

Deaf: With an uppercase D, signifies a person who is involved in Deaf culture and its values.
deaf: With a lowercase d, the state of hearing ability; lacking in the sense of hearing.
Hard of hearing: A person who still has some hearing ability, whereas a deaf person has none.
Mainstreaming: Placing deaf students in a classroom setting with hearing students.
Deaf culture: Deaf culture is primarily about socialization, being able to communicate with similar people. It implies that they use ASL to communicate, rather than methods such as oralism, or lip reading.
CODA/KODA: A child or kid of a deaf adult.