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April 12, 2004

ASL to hold conference

From: The BYU Newsnet, UT - Apr 12, 2004


In an effort to nationally promote deaf studies, the American Sign Language Department at Utah Valley State College will kickoff its first deaf conference April 12-14, 2004.

"One of the reasons we wanted to have the conference here was to raise deaf awareness in our valley and nationally," said Bryan Eldredge, assistant professor in the American Sign Language Department at UVSC. "What you find in deaf studies is that you have a sharing of perspectives [from the deaf population] that brightens everyone's view."

The Deaf Studies Today conference is scheduled to be a biennial event. This year's theme is "A kaleidoscope of knowledge, learning and understanding." The conference will take place preceding the USA Deaf Basketball Tournament, which will also be on the UVSC campus Apr. 15-17.

Renowned keynote speakers, entertainers and booths from various businesses, and publishers that cater to deaf studies and the deaf population have scheduled to attend. The total cost to attend all events of the conference is $125 to $300. However, some of the events are free and open to the public, such as the business fair and some speakers, Eldredge said.

One of the keynote speakers, Ben Bahan, a professor of Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., will be the first deaf person with a Ph.D to speak at UVSC, and will discuss the life experiences of visual people in a hearing world, Eldredge said.

Jen Alleman, 26, a deaf BYU student majoring in political science, said, "In deaf culture we have a language of our own, a way of life with different traditions and experiences that are common between us deaf. The conference will increase awareness that there is a culture and a way that the deaf and the hearing can communicate and understand each other."

On Wednesday evening, distinguished deaf actors Howie Seago and Nat Wilson are scheduled to perform in a production of "The Last Con," an adaptation of a 14th century play about a shepherd and a tailor. Tickets are $15 for non-conference goers and those not affiliated with the basketball tournament.

"The play will be completely silent, however, we think most people will have a sense of what's going on," said Minnie Mae Whilding-Diaz, assistant professor in the American Sign Language Department at UVSC. "It will probably be a combination of a mime and gesture performance."

Featured at the conference will be "Audism Unveiled," a documentary film produced by the students and faculty at Gallaudet University to promote deaf awareness.

Eldredge said the attention about the conference from Gallaudet University, a college that focuses specifically on deaf studies, has given UVSC national recognition.

"This isn't just some homegrown event," Diaz said. "If anything, this will get UVSC on the map."

For more information about the conference or the USA Deaf Basketball Tournament, go to There will be no walk-in registration allowed for the conference.

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