The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Signing in to Deaf Awareness Week

Deaf Awareness Week takes place this week with a variety of educational and recreational events.
The Daily Iowan; Photos by James
Insturctors Tim Sheets and Amy Ruth McGraw address the crowd at a panel lecture for Deaf Awareness Week at the Biology Building East on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (James Year/The Daily Iowan)

By Julia DiGiacomo
[email protected]

For deaf or hard-of-hearing students on campus, the tradition of Deaf Awareness Week provides an opportunity to discuss issues relevant to them.

The week, which is hosted by the University of Iowa
American Sign Language Program, takes place across campus with various recreational and educational events. It has the overarching goal of increasing public knowledge about the experiences of people that are deaf or hard of hearing.

On Monday, students met up for a volleyball game entirely in ASL. UI students who are deaf or hard of hearing shared their stories in a discussion panel Tuesday evening regarding language use, identity, and educational experiences.

“Our evaluations tell us many students attending these panels are unaware of what they face and the discrimination they encounter,” said Robert Vizzini, a UI ASL lecturer.

Today at 7 p.m., the ASL film What Are You … Deaf?, will be screened in Van Allen Lecture Room 2. A panel discussion will take place at 7 p.m. Friday in 101 Becker.

The discussion will be focused on the experiences of deaf children in the Iowa education system and will feature educational
interpreters as well as
educators and parents of deaf or hard-of-hearing children.

At the UI, students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may be approved for certain accommodations in classes, such as sign-language interpreters, class notes, preferential seating, videos in captioned format, or Communication Across Realtime Translation, said deaf or hard-of-hearing services coordinator Carly Armour in an email to The Daily Iowan.

Victoria Shihadah, the ASL Club president, was drawn to studying ASL partly because of the “welcoming, vibrant, and unique community.”

“If I can do anything to help and be an ally, I will,” she said.

RELATED: UI hosts deaf-awareness panels

The ASL Club has a presence on campus and holds weekly meetings every Wednesday. It also has
regular social gatherings to practice and socialize in ASL.

Shihadah believes Deaf Awareness Week provides an opportunity to celebrate deaf culture and the wide range of stories and people in the community. She also emphasized the importance of having a week to educate people who may not know anything or very little about deaf culture.

“So many people don’t know their language and misunderstand,” she said. “It’s really important for them and for people outside who get a chance to glimpse in and enjoy the community.”

Vizzini has been heavily involved in the deaf community and with Deaf Awareness Week for years.

“While I served on the Deaf Services Commission of Iowa advisory, we pushed to have the deaf proclamation week
returned in 2014 by Gov. [Terry] Branstad. Since that time, we at the ASL program of the UI have honored Deaf Week every year,” he said in an email to The Daily Iowan.

Vizzini said deaf culture is just a part of his life.

“People who share the same values, same struggles, and support each other make up the deaf culture,” he said. “When I was 13 years old, I did not know sign language or meet deaf role models, so I had little hope of the future. When I went to the deaf school and met many deaf people, I changed my goals and aimed high. I eventually went to college and have been contributing more than I could have imagined.”

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