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

International Deaf Week celebrates language and identity, illuminates state shortcomings

Isabella Tisdale
Mckenzie Rump signs to teammates during the Deaf Awareness Week volleyball game at the Iowa Field House on Sept. 18, 2023.

Students and community members gathered in the Field House last Monday for a game of volleyball. The only rule was that voices were not allowed. Players could only communicate through American Sign Language and other indicative gestures.

The University of Iowa ASL Club celebrated International Deaf Awareness Week by hosting four events from Sept. 18-22 that brought together Deaf, hearing, and hard-of-hearing students and community members to connect with the cultural Deaf community and recognize the issues they face.

ASL Volleyball Night kicked off the week and teams consisted of players who knew little to no Sign, students in advanced Sign Language classes, and people whose native language was Sign. Still, everyone managed to communicate. Rather than calling for the ball, players swung their arms out to show their teammates they were ready for the ball.

Several ASL students said they take up language to communicate with patients in the medical field as doctors, nurses, speech pathologists, and audiologists. Tabitha Keith, a third-year at the UI, said she is taking classes to learn American Sign Language as well as Deaf culture and history. As a nursing major, she wants to connect with the Deaf community.

“Deaf people are smart, they live with pride. It needs to be known that ASL is a language and not just signed English,” Keith said.

On Sept. 19, the ASL Club held their weekly club meeting in Phillips Hall. ASL students and Deaf community members socialized and played number-themed games.

In an interview with *The Daily Iowan,* Club President Gretchen Larson said that the club’s weekly meetings are a great way for ASL students to connect with the Deaf community. This connection is especially relevant to Larson because she grew up Hard-of-Hearing and started taking ASL at the University to connect with Deaf and hearing people.

“I wanted to communicate better with my friends and family. I also wanted to learn more about Deaf culture and the Deaf community, and this is the perfect opportunity,” Larson said.

RELATED: Iowa Senate bill proposes eliminating sign language board, licensing for interpreters

On Thursday, Sept. 21, a panel of Deaf and hard-of-hearing UI students spoke of their experiences growing up in a hearing world and attending the UI. A common narrative shared between the students centered around growing up feeling lost and isolated yet finding connection and identity when they started learning ASL and connecting with the Deaf community.

The week’s final panel was held on Friday, and community members told their stories of unqualified interpreters signing too slowly or inaccurately. In several cases, interpreters weren’t certified by any standards and were only ASL students. This meant Deaf people were misrepresented in job interviews and city meetings, misinformed at doctor appointments, or otherwise wrongfully excluded.

Iowa ASL interpreter, Amber Tucker, explained Iowa’s lack of interpreters is attributed to a lack of interpreter education and training in Iowa.

“How are we going to get more people to become interpreters if we don’t even have anywhere here in the state for people to actually study how to become an interpreter?” Tucker said.

An audience member asked the panel what could be done to bring an interpreter program to the UI.

DJ Meyer, president of the Cedar Rapids Association of the Deaf, called on the audience to connect with Deaf organizations and students to make it known that students want, and Iowa needs, an interpreter program.

“It starts here, in the school,” Meyer said. “You can create a change within this system.”

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About the Contributors
Lily Czechowicz, Arts Reporter
Lily Czechowicz is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa from which she earned a degree in English & Creative Writing.
Isabella Tisdale, Photojournalist
Isabella Tisdale is a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan and is a senior at West High school. In her free time, she stage manages for the theater program at West High. She plans to double major in political science and journalism.