Deaf Awareness Week

By Claire O'Riordan

        American Sign Language is a system of hand signals used by deaf people to communicate. It is used by around 70 million people in America; making it the third most commonly used language, behind English and Spanish. This past week, awareness about ASL was promoted throughout the school. Posters with fun facts were hung in the hallway, students signed the Pledge of Allegiance, and the American Sign Language club of  met. But if ASL is such a popular language, why would we even need to spread awareness about it? As told by cabinet member of the ASL club, Zac Jones, “Chinese people, they can learn English. Spanish people, they can learn English. As arrogant as it sounds, it’s true. But deaf people, they don’t have the same ability to learn spoken English.” Co-vice president of the ASL club, Kate Vail, elaborated on Zach’s point stating, “They [deaf people] can’t enter our world. You need to enter theirs.” Deaf ASL users can communicate with each other, but when it comes to communication between a hearing person and a deaf person, if the hearing person does not know sign language, the interaction ends. When asked if more hearing people should learn ASL, Vail expressed that “it is up to us [those without a hearing impediment] to bridge the gap, to close the divide.” Deaf awareness week worked to shed light on an often ignored mode of communication, and begin to close that gap. Plus, learning ASL can have some unexpected benefits. At least it did for president of the ASL club, Molly McKenna, who got a free coffee after helping a deaf person order. However, free caffeine aside, deaf people and those hard of hearing want to communicate and share ideas with as many people as they can, but it’s up to you to make that possible.

A special thanks to ASL students Kate Vail, Zac Jones, Molly McKenna, and Olivia Chambers for providing information that made this article possible!