September is Deaf Awareness Month!
Here are some things that you can do to help spread Deaf awareness at your campus, in your department, in your school, classroom, work place, community and beyond. This post has context. I’m a Deaf and Hard of Hearing digital art & design professor teaching here in CUNY (and beyond). This post is about representation, advocacy and awareness. We still have a lot of work to do to. Communication and language is our birthright! I made this series of animated GIFs to help you see how creativity can play a role in the facilitating of awareness. Lets jump in.
This month you can help spread awareness about Deaf culture, what does it means to be Deaf & Hard of Hearing (HofH) and experiencing the various spectrums of hearing loss. You can get involved and be proactive, here are a few ways to take-action, and by all means, SHARE THIS WIDELY!
What is it like to Deaf? Check out this video! (you can also use a search engine by asking the same question for more results and examples) Here is 1 of many many many examples.
Understanding comes through Awareness, lets dig in: even awareness takes practice!
1. Learning, Sharing and Informing your Family, Friends, Colleagues and Students:
First, spread the word by sharing this post! Simply talking about Deaf Awareness Month is a great start. Let other people know by reaching out. This can easily take place in a department meeting, in the classroom, via a group e-mail or by creating an event or meet up to discuss. In your department, reach out to the Human Resources office and ask about the resources your campus offers. This may mean connecting to a specific person in charge or the office of accessibility / disabilities on or off the premises. If there aren’t any current resources, (and sadly, there may not be) then it is time to create them! Don’t forget to reach out to your librarians! (They are the most awesome resource (and awesome in general 🙂 and can help!) Let this post be a guide and a starting point. Again, awareness is everything, and awareness desires to always expand!
Obviously, the Internet is filled with tons of resources, here are a few to help get you started and inspired!:
NAD – https://www.nad.org/
American Deaf Culture
What Does it Mean to Be Deaf/ Hard of Hearing?
Lets learn a bit of ASL History – here is a great short video to help introduce you – and again, an internet search using the same terms of search query will gather tons of examples!
A bit more on ASL history can be found here:
(animation translation – the subway cars above reads: “Deaf Awareness Month Graffiti”)
1. Learn A Sign Language: It’s time to learn a sign language! Here in the USA we use ASL, also known as American Sign Language. ASL is beautiful! It is an official foreign language. Even learning the basics of fingerspelling and the ASL alphabet goes a very long way.
I’m a big fan of smartphone applications like: The ASL App
Dr. Bill Vicars has a great website and his YouTube channel is a great place to start learning ASL!
I love Handspeak.com and Giphy.com also has a great search archive of various ASL teachers and personalities here
Gallaudet University also has a great free online course here.
There are a lot of options! Choose one and get started!
Above: Now you know how to finger-spell ” BROOKLYN” in the American Sign Language Alphabet 🙂
For those of you here in NYC (and beyond as remote classes are now fully in place) I highly recommend taking classes at the Sign Language Center – they are so wonderful! I am a student there and cant say enough about how great they are!
Several CUNY colleges (and private colleges) also offer ASL classes at the beginner level (did you know that?) Take a peek at your local college’s course catalog or do a search for ASL / the name of your college, online. Many are offered online!
3. Join or Create a Sign Language Group: All colleges and university campuses have an allotted “club-hours” time each week for clubs on campus (and now remotely as many of us work, teach and attend classes from home.) Does your campus already have a Sign Language group or club? Inquire! If not, perhaps you can use the club-hours time to form an ASL club and practice learning Sign Language together. Learning with a friend or a group of people is a great way to inspire, encourage and motivate each other.
4. Support! Reach out to your local Deaf & Hard of Hearing Communities: This means, People, Businesses, Organizations and Groups! Once again, by reaching out to your campus HR dept. and or office of disabilities / accessibility and make an inquiry about how to get involved and who the contact names are for various groups, communities, events and businesses. Reach out!
5. Creativity – Go on and Create Something to Express Yourself: I made most of the animations in this post specifically for Deaf Awareness Month. You can get creative too! This can be done individually or in your classroom, it can be done with your department and fellow faculty members, administrators and staff. Collaborate! Make a sign, make a flyer, make a poster or a digital illustration. Hang them up around your department offices and in your classrooms online and offline. Get creative! Im going to be launching a multi-campus wide project soon to bring further awareness, I will be reaching out to YOU!
6. Closed Captions, Accessibility & Inclusion – (THIS MEANS YOU!) – It is time to caption your videos and video meetings, yes, all of them! Its long overdue, its time to be inclusive and to provide accessibility for all. From now on, use ONLY a video conferencing application that has live and real time captions. Record your videos with captioning and make transcriptions available.There are so many platforms available today that work really well, they all provide transcripts and or the ability to record the video with captions. Zoom, REV, Google Meet, Skype, & MS Teams are just a few to name. This is the perfect month to take action and make the necessary changes, updates and adaptations so that all communication is inclusive and accessible. As a college professor teaching all of my courses remotely this semester, I have been using Zoom with the REV add-on for live and real time captions (I am 100% dependent on captions). I find that these two tools together work best for me and my disability. The captioning is fast and consistent while Zoom gives me the ability to see all of my students and select how I want to see the speaker/speakers in a full composite meeting. Yes, I lip and speech read! When I record my classes, I automatically record the captions and also produce an audio and text transcription.
Would you like to see more Ryan Seslow art surrounding Accessibility awareness?
Check out my online exhibition here
Please feel free to add to this series of resources in the comments section below! Thank you!
Contact me! Want to learn more, chat, connect and create some kind of an awareness based creative project with your students, class or faculty members? I’m here to help! e-mail here – firstname.lastname@example.org