By Ryan Seslow
September is Deaf Awareness Month! This month, you can help spread awareness about Deaf culture, what it means to be Deaf & Hard of Hearing (HofH) and experiencing the various spectrums of hearing loss.
I’m a Deaf and Hard of Hearing college professor teaching here at CUNY. I want to engage people in representation, advocacy and awareness regarding the Deaf & HofH community. Here are some things that you can do to help spread Deaf Awareness at your campus, department, school, classroom, community and beyond:
GIF by Ryan Seslow
Understanding comes through Awareness. Let’s dig in: even awareness takes practice!
GIF by Ryan Seslow
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. Communication is key, so let other people know by reaching out. This can easily take place in a department meeting, in the classroom, via a group email 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! Let this post be a guide and a starting point. Again, awareness is everything!
Obviously, the Internet is filled with tons of resources, here are a few to help get you started and inspired!:
Lets learn a bit of ASL History – here is a great short video to help introduce you: here .
(Translation – the subway cars above read: “Deaf Awareness Month Graffiti”) | GIF by Ryan Seslow
Sign Language Alphabet and numbers one through nine | Image by Ryan Seslow
2. 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 also has a great search archive of various ASL teachers and personalities. Gallaudet University also has a 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 :) | GIF by Ryan Seslow
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. Take a peek at your college’s course catalog or do a search for ASL/the name of your college, online.
GIF by Ryan Seslow
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? If so, I encourage you to 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 department 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, flyer, poster or a digital illustration. Hang them up around your department offices and in your classrooms online and offline. Get creative! I’m 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!) It’s long overdue, and it’s time to be inclusive and 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. Platforms such as Zoom & REV, Google Meet, Skype, & MS Teams all provide transcripts and have the ability to record the video with captions. 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, as I am 100% dependent on them. 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(s) in a full view of the 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.
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!
Feel free to reach out to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org