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April 20, 2004

Sign program hosts discussion

From: Red and Black - Apr 20, 2004


Leaning forward in their seats Monday night, a group of three University students stared at a member of their discussion panel, trying to comprehend a language they have not yet mastered -- American Sign Language.

The visiting panel member, Rene Edwards from Duluth, was born deaf and described to students how her parents dealt with her disability.

The group, and seven larger groups of students, engaged the visitors -- who all have differing degrees of deafness -- in conversation, testing their signing knowledge and hopefully, said American Sign Language instructor Judy Oliver, picking up on "deaf culture."

Edwards told the group her parents were worried when they first found out she and her twin sister Dana were both deaf. They thought the girls would not be able to take care of themselves or ever communicate with others.

Attending a school for the deaf allowed Edwards to learn sign language and be more independent.

The discussion group is part of the requirement for passing beginning American Sign Language. Right now, Oliver is teaching four classes -- two of the basic classes and two advanced classes -- totaling about 120 students in all, she said.

Oliver said so far there was only one American Sign Language class scheduled for next Fall. One class, she said, would accommodate 35 students at the most.

Since it will be a beginning class, none of the students in this semester's class will be able to move up to the next level unless another class is opened.

Although the discussion group was optional for the advanced students, Oliver said, most of them attended.

"There is plenty of interest in the program," Oliver said.

Joanna Mattox, a graduate student from Orlando, Fla., said the advanced class is beneficial for students because it is a lot more involved.

However, she said, if you know any sign language at all, you can communicate with people in the deaf community because they will help guide you through the language.

"There's a whole culture to the sign language," Oliver said.

One of the reasons the culture is so interesting, she said, is there are a multitude of cultures within a culture.

One of the visitors at the discussion, Danny Lucero, is a Navajo originally from New Mexico.

Another visitor, Kaitlin Pate, a senior from Jonesboro High School, is Miss Deaf Georgia and will be competing in Miss Deaf USA in July.

"I love introducing the students to the different cultural aspects of the deaf community," Oliver said.

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