Deaf studies minor promotes the merging of hearing and non-hearing communities
Over the past four years, the deaf studies minor has sought to promote awareness of deaf culture to students at Lee in an effort to better serve and communicate with those who rely on nonverbal communication.
Similar to other language minors, the deaf studies minor not only teaches students American Sign Language (ASL), but it also incorporates expression and identity awareness. Founder of the minor Dr. La-Juan Bradford was eager to implement this program to give students the opportunity to reach the deaf community.
“When I was a student, we had a deaf student, and my friends and I would sign for her in chapel. It was a shaping point for myself, as I wanted to help serve deaf people,” Bradford said. “With this minor, it allows for students in all majors to communicate with the deaf.”
With the ability to tag this minor onto any major, students can broaden their cultural understanding, while simultaneously gaining the opportunity to help an often isolated group of people.
Freshman elementary education major Sammi Aho, who grew up with hearing problems, experienced a lack of resources in the classroom for those with disabilities. She explained that simple accommodations can make a life-changing difference.
“I had chronic ear infections growing up, and I had a hole in my ear from tubes that were put in. I know what it is like to grow up and be lacking in [communication],” Aho said. “I want teachers to know to put on subtitles without students having to ask, and I want hearing people to be invested in a conversation with someone who is hard of hearing.”
Driven by these difficulties, Aho has developed a love for ASL and has taken on a deaf studies minor to supplement her elementary education major. Aho aspires to connect her hearing students with her deaf students, in order to expand the communities of those with or without hearing disabilities.
“I want all of my students to know that they have potential even if they are different, to see their differences and think that they are amazing,” Aho said. “The deaf community worldview is so small because ASL is different from other forms of sign language, so they can only communicate with a certain group of people. I want to help expand that world just a little.”
The deaf studies courses incorporate language use and practice, including finger spelling, as well as an understanding of the community. With only a six-course requirement to complete the minor, Discipleship Ministries Coordinator and American Sign Language professor Meagan Allen is eager to see the growth of her students pursuing this minor.
“I love watching my students grow from day one of class to fluency. On the first day, we don’t talk—only sign,” Allen said. “Students come in intimidated at first, but by the end of even the first semester, they’re confident in signing. I think this minor is a positive addition, and I hope students can help deaf people feel included and validated.”
For those wanting to know how to get involved in the local deaf community, Bradford teaches a Bible study at North Cleveland Church of God every week, as well as hosts a silent lunch on the first Saturday of every month, where members of the church sign over a meal with those who have hearing disabilities. Bradford encourages Lee students to attend and engage with this community.
“I want to make students aware that the deaf need to be reached, as only 2% of deaf people are saved,” Bradford said.
The incorporation of a deaf studies minor gives students of all career paths the opportunity to serve and love those who are different from them, while simultaneously embracing and celebrating their differences.
For students interested in learning more about this minor, contact Dr. La-Juan Bradford at firstname.lastname@example.org.