The sign of community: ASL club hosts Deaf Awareness Day

By Savannah Lewis

The American Sign Language (ASL) Club and the Delta Zeta Sorority will be holding a Deaf Awareness Day for Cleveland State University students. While Ohio’s formal Deaf Awareness month is held in April and the national Deaf Awareness month is September, the ASL Club wanted to spread their own awareness of the culture on Nov. 20. It will be held from 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. in the Student Center Atrium. 

This interactive event will offer basic training for the attendees to learn ASL and participate in a game of bingo that will be played silently and use ASL to call out the spaces. The event is open to all Cleveland State students to attend, as well as Cleveland’s deaf and hard of hearing community who would like to participate. This event will give attendees an opportunity to ask any questions they may have and learn information that they may not be aware of regarding deaf and hard of hearing cultures. It will also have free food for everyone who attends to enjoy.  

The program will include three speakers who will be explaining different aspects of deaf culture. One of the speakers will be Dana Van Deventer, president of the ASL Club, who will be “turning off” her voice and signing while giving her speech — having interpreters speak for her for attendees who may not understand ASL fluently or at all. 

 Along with being a speaker, Van Deventer is the main creator of the event. She decided to hold Cleveland State’s own Deaf Awareness Day in the hopes of spreading awareness about deaf and hard of hearing culture, as well as teaching students who may not be enrolled in the ASL classes offered at Cleveland State some of the language.

This event is important to Van Deventer because of her own history. She was born deaf and learned to sign at the age of 10. She has noticed that, while there are some hard of hearing students, there is not a large population of deaf students on campus. Van Deventer  wants students who may not interact with the deaf community regularly to feel more comfortable doing so.

“People tend to be afraid of talking to them when they don’t need to be,” Van Deventer explained. “If students understand the language better, they will be less worried about communicating with deaf people.”

Van Deventer explained how important it is for people to be knowledgeable and understanding of the deaf and hard of hearing community. 

“Deaf people are less likely to be hired for jobs,” Van Deventer stated.

She hopes that awareness events like this one and others around the community can help people without hearing impairments to interact with deaf and hard of hearing individuals and decrease the barriers that many face. 

Van Deventer discussed a few ways to make communication between deaf and hearing individuals go smoothly, so  that both parties feel comfortable in the conversation. 

“Ask the person you are talking to if they can read lips,” Van Deventer stated. “Many deaf people can, but some can’t, so don’t be afraid to check.” 

She also explained the importance of nonverbal communication in conversations. Eye contact, body position and facial expressions are important to all conversations, but they become vital in conversations that cannot rely on the verbal aspect. 

Van Deventer also described how using technology can greatly benefit the deaf community in regard to communication. 

“Now, there is texting and video chatting,” she explained. “I’ve used Skype to video chat an interpreter during class so that I could take notes. If you are in-person, it’s easy to write down notes on your phone for us to read.” 

Along with this event, the ASL club will be hosting monthly coffee days for people to have the opportunity to interact with one another and practice ASL. 

“You learn ASL by practicing it,” Van Deventer said. “You have to use it often to understand it as best as you can.”