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International Week of the Deaf commemorated on Flagler's campus

Sep 23, 2022
by Anna Boone

This week, students from Flagler’s Deaf Awareness Club worked with faculty and staff to celebrate International Week of the Deaf with education, activities and fellowship.

“This week, we’re just finding ways to celebrate and make people aware of Deaf culture and the Deaf community, especially here in St. Augustine,” President of the DAC, Skylee Rodgers said.

International Week of the Deaf is celebrated annually during the last week of September. The week was originally commemorated in 1958, seven years after the first World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf was held in Rome, Italy. September is now commonly recognized as Deaf Awareness Month, an expansion of this week-long celebration.

St. Augustine holds distinct historical ties with the Deaf community. In 1885, The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind was established as the first fully accredited, tuition-free state public school for eligible Pre-K and K-12 students who are Deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired or deafblind. After Flagler College was established in 1968, its proximity to FSDB was a factor in offering a Deaf Education major as one of its first programs.

The Deaf community on campus and in St. Augustine has continued to thrive and members of DAC are dedicated to an effort of making Flagler College as accessible and welcoming as possible to the Deaf community.

“Deaf Awareness Club is not just for Deaf Ed. and ASL people, it’s for anyone who wants to learn more about the Deaf community and learn more about their culture,” Vice President of the DAC, Meredith Brunt said.



Legacy historic tour for the Deaf community

The week kicked off with a Legacy historic tour catered to St. Augustine residents of the Deaf community. DAC worked with the College’s Legacy tours to host a free historic tour of the Hotel Ponce de Leon alongside an ASL interpreter.

Silent Dinner

After the tour, community members were invited to a “silent dinner” at Sarbez!. A handful of students from DAC joined the guests and were able to learn what these community members do in their jobs and how they are involved in the Deaf community.

Students using sign at silent dinner



Deaf accessibility Zoom workshop

In collaboration with the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Dr. Jennifer Catalano, director of the Deaf education program, and June Ann LeFors, director of ASL studies hosted a workshop on Deaf accessibility via Zoom.

They kicked off the session, which was open to the Flagler community, by playing a “trick” that mimicked the experience a Deaf student might have while using virtual learning tools. Catalano, LeFors and the interpreters muted their mics and purposefully started conversing and signing so that the hearing people on Zoom could experience the confusion and frustration of being excluded from communication in a critical setting.

Their presentation was created to help participants understand what accessibility should entail for Deaf students, the laws which support it and ways to improve accessibility on campus and in the classroom.

Download the Presentation: Accessibility for Deaf Students (PPT 14MB)



Deaf accessibility lunch workshop

Catalano and LeFors hosted a second, in-person presentation of their workshop Wednesday. When discussing the difference between equality, equity and justice as it relates to accessibility, Catalano used the example of automatic sliding doors. She said this form of physical accessibility did not just provide tools for people with disabilities to get through doors as someone without disabilities would, it offered a solution to eliminate this obstacle:

“Anybody can get through those doors and nobody has to ask for accommodations,” Catalano said.

This solution-oriented way of thinking about accessibility is something she said we should strive for, obtaining justice over equity.

Silent Game Night

 Wednesday night, the DAC hosted a “silent game night” held in the ASL lab where participants played “Guesstures,” which is similar to charades.

“It was really laid back and relaxed. And if you didn’t know any signing or spelling, it was fine. I learned signs I didn’t even know,” Brunt, VP of the DAC said.

 Students using sign language during a silent game night of

- About the ASL Lab -

The ASL Lab, located in Kenan Hall room 322, is a resource for any student interested in improving their ASL skills.  In the lab, students can meet with the ASL student tutors who consist of two native signers and Deaf Education majors.

“It’s just a space for ASL students, or any students, to come and practice ASL,” Rodgers, president of the DAC said. “You don’t need to come in there specifically for tutoring. We invite anybody to come hang out and just express yourself using sign. It’s an open place for people to come learn and express themselves.”

Along with ASL tutors, the lab has other resources for students to develop their skills while having fun.

“We have fun things for them to do too,” Brunt said. “We have a bookshelf of games that they can play and practice their signing. We can pull up videos on the computers to practice their receptive skills and then we can have them sign to us so they can practice their expressive skills.”



Deaf Awareness Club Day on the Lawn

Members of the DAC were set up with multiple tables on the West Lawn Thursday to engage with students throughout the day. Within the first hour of the event, Brunt said they had signed up three new members to the DAC.

One of the main goals of this event was get more students engaged with the DAC and conscious of their effort to increase signing on campus.

“We want it to grow and be seen on campus more,” Brunt said.

“We want this to be a signing campus,” Rodgers added. “We want to see hands flying everywhere we go.”

They had informational tables as well as a table where members would teach you a sign and paint it symbolically on your hand or arm.

Two students participate in Club Day on the Lawn by painting hearts on their hands



Movie Night: A Quiet Place Part II + Discussion

Tonight, you can join the DAC and representatives from the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for a screening of A Quiet Place Part II followed by a discussion about how the movie affected the Deaf community and how it involves them. The screening and discussion, located in the Student Center's Gamache-Koger Theater, will run from 7 to 9 p.m.

“The cast is more hearing than Deaf, but they brought in people to teach them ASL,” Brunt said. “They had a lot of research within the movie to make sure it was accurate.”

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