ISU students interact, learn about deaf culture

Hyeona Jeon

In past years, Deaf Awareness Day took place on a Saturday evening. However, this year, the American Sign Language Club is hosting a full week of various events and activities each day.

The club served hot chocolate, sold merchandise and provided information about activities being held during Deaf Awareness Week at the free speech zone in front of Parks Library on Monday.

On Tuesday, the club taught American Sign Language vocabulary and helped students develop a better understanding of the Deaf Culture through fun activities in Physics Hall 0003.

The club will provide a slice of pizza for $2 on Central Campus on Wednesday, or students can exchange a book for a slice, which will serve as fundraiser for deaf schools in Africa.

The group will show a free movie, “The Hammer,” Wednesday, which is about a person’s journey to object identity and completely embrace his deaf identity. The movie will be shown in the Cardinal Room of the Memorial Union with free beverages for the first 100 attendees.

Michael Ballard, lecturer of world language and cultures, will lead a discussion panel about what it’s like to be deaf after the movie, with members of the deaf community sharing testimonials and elaborating on deaf culture and identity.

Among the six panelists are two ISU students: Scott Johnson, senior in civil engineering and Meghan Moratz, senior in apparel, merchandising and design, who is also the American Sign Language Club secretary.

The American Sign Language Club will be at ISU AfterDark on Friday to teach students American Sign Language.

Jonathan Webb, sign language instructor, said he was excited about the week. 

“It is inspired by a new way of seeing the world,” Webb said. “Instead of thinking deaf people as not able to do this or that, in reality those misconceptions [hopefully change] through this event week.”

Though this awareness week is specific to ISU students, International Deaf Awareness Week took place in September.

Danielle Nygard, sophomore in political science, is a senator with the Government of Student Body. Nygard took Michael Ballard’s class on American Sign Language and Deaf Culture and was inspired to do something about deaf identity and culture. She contacted the ASL club, which led to the Iowa State’s first Deaf Culture Awareness Week.

The week not only provides information about deaf identity and culture, but also gives students a chance to think about what deafness means to a lot of students.

A particular identity, as well as a particular set of values and beliefs, is given to people who are deaf, Webb said. Deaf Awareness Week is chance to educate the campus about what it means to belong and have contact with the American deaf culture.

“This is held by very proud people who don’t view the world through their ears, but they view through the eyes and that is the only different thing that hearing people and deaf people is different,” Webb said. “They perceive the world through their vision as hearing around.”