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November 30, 2003

Teammates learn sign language to communicate with deaf teammate

From: Access North Georgia, GA - Nov 30, 2003

The Associated Press - SAVANNAH, Ga.

Womens softball players at the Savannah College of Art and Design are using some new signs these days.

The athletes are learning sign language to communicate better with outfielder Joyce Hom, who is deaf.

At a recent practice-turned-teaching session, Hom used precise hand movements to show teammates how to count and sign key softball words such as steal, score, throw, hustle and nice play.

A junior majoring in illustration, Hom, 20, joined SCAD this fall after two years at Gallaudet University, a Washington-based school for the deaf and hard of hearing.

When she came out for softball in September, she and her teammates had trouble understanding each other.

We all take it for granted how we communicate, said co-captain Neelum Tiwari, a senior in graphic design. But at first, it was difficult.

Players tried using a dry eraser board and markers to talk to each other. They wrote each other notes. When the team huddled at the end of practice, one of Homs teammates would write down what the coach had said.

But communication problems persisted.

She was in the outfield, so far away. And I was struggling sometimes to get her attention, said head softball coach Terri Knecht.

And sometimes, when Knecht talked to her, Hom said, I would be in the dark.

On the field and on bus rides to games, Hom began showing some teammates how to sign a few words. Knecht proposed a series of classes in sign language for the whole team.

Assisted by Beverly Williams, SCADSs coordinator of deaf services, Hom has led three classes so far and hopes to hold at least one more in January.

At one recent lesson, Hom signed Hello and divided her fellow players into teams. She asked them to sign names of a variety of fruits and spell a partners name. The approach was lighthearted __ when someone made a mistake, Hom and the players laughed.

Were getting better, said Christina Queen, 21. This is really interesting. Its helped us get closer to Joyce and this really helps on the field.

Information from: Savannah Morning News

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.