Until you have walked in someone else’s shoes, you will never understand what they are experiencing, but on Thursday, April 5 at VSU, students had the opportunity to experience firsthand what life is like as a deaf person.
The event, titled Deaf Deaf World, was held by VSU’s American Sign Language Club.
The ASL Club’s mission for Deaf Deaf World was to spread awareness of deaf culture, show its unique language and its diverse people.
“A lot of people are not aware of deaf culture,” Jeremine Burks, an American sign language/English interpreter major, said. “Many individuals have never met a deaf or hard of hearing person.”
Prior to entering the museum, hearing individuals received a tutorial and talking was not permitted once inside of the museum.
“This was a learning experience from start to finish and throughout the entire tour,” said Ntoh Shalom, a Spanish/American sign language interpreter major.
Students had the opportunity to walk through the different courses that highlighted the individuals who were deaf and made a momentous contribution to the world.
Each individual performed a different scenario where they could only communicate using sign language.
Sign language is not an easy language to use or learn on the spot.
“To make it more accessible to those none signing, there was a voicer at each station,” Shalom said.
The deaf community is not limited to those that are deaf, but includes many other individuals that use sign language to communicate.
“The deaf community includes not only deaf, but hard of hearing people who have issues using their voice due to medical issues or choose not to use their voice,” Shalom said.
Burks stressed that it is extremely important for both deaf, hard of hearing and hearing people to know and understand that deaf individuals can do anything.
“Deaf individuals in this country have changed lives and created history,” Burks said.
VSU’s ASL Club is growing due to more individuals yearning to learn about deaf culture.
The club participates and hosts several learning experiences outside of VSU’s campus.
“We are involved with the South Georgia deaf community (SGDC) here in Valdosta and the organization hosts deaf coffee chats, silent dinners and movie nights held in various places,” Burks said.
The SGDC is constantly inviting hearing individuals to join these events to gain additional knowledge about deaf culture.
“These events are open to the public, and the only communication used is sign language,”
Burks and Shalom are excited about the future of deaf education and all of the opportunities that are being planned.
Burks will serve as the president of the ASL Club for the 2018-2019 school term.
“I can’t wait to involve our student body here at VSU in our friendly ASL Club environment.” Burks said.
Burk’s goal is to teach hearing individuals basic communication to sign with those in the deaf community.
“I will continue to spread awareness about deaf culture by hosting more events on campus, and I hope to get everyone to know the basic conversational signs in ASL,” Burks said. “As the saying goes, be the change you want to see.”
Written by Bryan Tillman, Staff Writer. Photo Courtesy of Valdosta State University.