Group brings awareness to community

By Alicia Finch

After almost a year and a half of working together, a group of American Sign Language (ASL) students at The University of Akron have officially created a club dedicated to learning more about the language.

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“The purpose of the organization is to bring awareness on campus about the deaf community, but it is also to teach the new students how fun sign language is and that there is so much more to their world than what just meets the eye,” Vice President Cheeto Zito said.

ASL is a complete, complex language that employs signs made by the moving of the hands, combined with facial expressions and postures of the body. This is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Most students involved are taking ASL classes on campus or have already finished their degree in ASL and are pursuing more interest in the language and community.

The club held its second meeting last Thursday. At the meetings, members can speak about themselves and play games to practice their ASL vocabulary. Meetings are held on the second and fourth Thursday of every month at 7 p.m.

“We’re trying to create a space outside of the classroom where students can practice their signing as well as give them more of a deaf ‘pop-culture’ education,” President Jordan
Brian said.

Around 30 members have been attending the meetings. There is also a mailing list for updates about meetings and the club, and a Facebook group has been created to invite people to meetings. At deaf community events the group is known as “American Sign Language Association (University of Akron).”

Members of the club are encouraging students to join, though to be a member, they must be a part of the ASL community on campus. This would include students who are in or between ASL classes or who have already received some sort of certificate or degree in ASL.

The group plans to be more involved than just in meetings. Off campus activities called silent weekends have already been planned.

Steven Wyatt, the club’s public relations officer, said silent weekends are a weekend of camping and no verbal speaking. This is an encouraging way to learn, whether a student is fluent in ASL or is a
beginner.

“Silent weekends improve your ASL a lot because you can only use signing,” Wyatt said. “If you do not know a sign, everyone is so nice and someone will help you figure it out.”

There will be silent weekends available to club members and anyone else interested in ASL. The first silent weekend will be held the first weekend in October. Along with silent weekends, students in upper classes of ASL will have the opportunity to interpret for deaf students at UA events, like this year’s homecoming.

There are many more ways in which the club helps students learn ASL and about the culture, such as discussion about important issues that pertain to ASL or the deaf community as a whole and thinking of ways to improve the ASL community on campus.

“I love sign language. The club’s a great way to meet friends,” Courtney Ross, a member of the club said.

Students who are interested or have any questions regarding the American Sign Language Club, please contact Zito via email at ejz4@zips.uakron.edu.