Club increases deaf awareness
Senior sociology major Adriana Vasquez serves as club vice president of The Biola ASL Club, which hopes to educate students about the deaf community. | John Uy/THE CHIMES
From film screenings to expos in Los Angeles, the Biola ASL club hopes to create a higher level of deaf awareness on campus and in the surrounding area.
Learning to Sign
Senior sociology major Adriana Vasquez serves as club president and originally joined the club because of her background with the Deaf community — her brother is deaf and has two cochlear implants. She started taking classes with her family to learn how to sign and continued learning at Biola.
During her freshman year, she also attended Deaf awareness events every Thursday night at Buffalo Wild Wings in Brea, where she learned even more sign language and had the opportunity to interact with others in the deaf community.
“That’s really when I learned a lot of sign,” Vasquez said. “I was just sitting and watching and engaging and like any other language, if you engage in community you’re going to learn it a lot faster.”
Junior film major April Caputi serves as a leader in the club and said part of her desire to attend Biola was because of the ASL club.
“I’m deaf myself and I wanted a community where there’s ASL and people know about deaf culture because that’s a huge thing for me,” Caputi said.
The leaders invite anyone interested in sign language and Deaf culture to attend meetings, even if they do not know any sign language. In addition to discussing ASL, they talk about the Deaf community and events, answer students’ questions and watch films. They will also help teach basic sign language to members and provide resources.
Vasquez said many students sign up for the club during clubs fair, but many students do not attend meetings because they do not know sign language and are intimidated. Caputi also noticed her classmates who try learning ASL often become embarrassed and she encourages students to feel confident when interacting with others in the Deaf community.
“It’s so cool because if you go to a Deaf event and you sit around deaf people and you don’t know that much, they will be so patient with you,” Vasquez said.
Connecting with the Community
The club attended the DEAfestival in downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 3. This festival hosted booths with shirts, deaf agencies and companies and influential people in the Deaf community. The event also featured bands, including one with a deaf drummer.
In addition, they met with Wycliffe Bible Translators on Friday, Oct. 9 to discuss translating the Bible into ASL and also plan to attend a similar expo on Nov. 14 in Los Angeles.
Both Caputi and Vasquez have experienced a lack of Deaf awareness in their own lives.
Vasquez said she has seen a lack of Deaf awareness in her life with her brother when he received his license and people asked her how he could drive.
“Around the world, sometimes deaf people aren’t accepted at all,” Vasquez said. “We live in a country where deaf people are accepted but people still aren’t fully aware of Deaf community, sign language and culture and we want people to be aware.”
Caputi encounters a lack of Deaf awareness when people ask her how she can speak well if she is deaf. She was born with bilateral sensorineural — the most common type of hearing loss. Her mother found out she was deaf when she was five months old and she wears a hearing aid on her right ear. This can create communication barriers with others and Caputi said others often apologize to her because she cannot hear. She hopes to educate others regarding the different methods of deaf communication and said the best way to show respect to a deaf person is to ask how they communicate.
In addition, she said the deaf are often overlooked and they hope students will learn to treat them the same way as others. Caputi also encourages students who do not personally know a deaf person to join the club because they will most likely encounter someone who is deaf in their lifetime.
“It’s also great for everybody else who doesn’t think that they’ll encounter a deaf person in their life because, truth is, they may,” Caputi said. “They’ll be better people in the workplace and whatever they do because they’ll know Deaf culture and be able to communicate with them.”
Unity Between Communities
The club plans to host their first big event — a movie night in Sutherland Auditorium on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. showing the film “Found on South Street.” The movie is a Christian film about a deaf man who takes on an alternate identity because he struggles with his own identity. Biola students and members of the community are welcome to attend and there will be a couple of interpreters.
Caputi said the movie addresses the debate between the deaf and hearing communities from a Christian perspective and shows Christ-like unity between the communities.
“I think we produced the right way to look at the debates — that there’s exceptions to who they are, that their identity is really not in whether you’re deaf or ASL only, whether you speak or if you want to be hearing only or if you have a cochlear implant — it’s in Christ, and that’s all that matters,” Caputi said.