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The Blue & Gray Press | November 23, 2017

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American Sign Language Club Asks Department to 'Talk to the Hand'

Miles Dumville/Bullet

Miles Dumville/Bullet

Talk to the Hand, the American Sign Language club, is taking strides to raise deaf awareness on campus by proposing that UMW add the language as a class.

“It’s not about hearing loss, it’s all about attitude,” said senior David Dutton, president and founder of Talk to the Hand.

Dutton said his motive to start the club revolved around his desire to share his passion and knowledge of American Sign Language, or ASL.

The club provides tutorials at every meeting, allowing students to either learn ASL for the first time or further their skills in the language.

Our goal is to raise awareness on campus, and eventually reach out past the UMW community,” Dutton said.

In addition to planning club events, Dutton has spent the past month working to prepare a proposal that he presented Monday, Nov. 2 to the modern foreign language department. The proposal addressed his dream of adding ASL to the language curriculum.

“Even before I came to UMW, my mission was to get ASL taught,” Dutton said.

Much research and planning was needed before Dutton was able to make his proposal, including speaking to other universities who offer ASL.

According to Dutton, Gallaudet University, one of the premier universities for the deaf in the country, has been very helpful throughout the entire process, offering aid and advice about planning for an ASL program at UMW.

“The department was willing to listen and analyze all sides of the issues involved in making the proposal a reality,” Dutton said of the Monday meeting. “The proposal successfully brought ASL to the forefront and got everyone thinking.”

Realizing that such a proposal will take time to come into fruition due to recent university budget cuts, the plan to add ASL to the UMW curriculum has been broken down into smaller stages.

“The first real step is awareness of ASL at our campus, and we’re well along into this first step,” said Dan Hubbard, associate professor of business administration and faculty advisor for the club.

The second step in the plan, Hubbard said, would be UMW’s acceptance of academic credits for ASL students from other universities and high schools.

“I have had several students in the past who would have met the language requirements had UMW accepted ASL,” Hubbard said.

The final step would be for UMW to hire faculty to teach ASL, not only allowing students to use it to meet their general education requirements but also helping to spread diversity awareness throughout campus.

“We’re all encouraged by President Hample’s encouragement of diversity inclusion,” said Chris Foss, associate professor of English and faculty advisor for Dutton’s proposal. “Adding ASL would be a good statement for the university.”

One of the club’s many upcoming events includes a deaf movie night, which will take place on Nov. 12. All students are invited to come and watch a movie that will relate to an important aspect in the deaf community. The club is also planning to visit Gallaudet University this spring.