Sounds of Silence brings advocacy and awareness for the deaf community at Southeastern Louisiana University

The student organization, Sounds of Silence, is providing a hands-on way for Southeastern Louisiana University students to become involved with the deaf community and learn American Sign Language.

Importance of Learning American Sign Language

According to Michigan State University, American Sign Language is defined as “a formal language employing a system of hand gestures for communication, as by the deaf.” MSU explained that learning ASL is a life skill that can be used in different capacities in one’s life. “This skill is used as a bridge of communication to the deaf culture. Along with communication with the deaf, a person is able to learn about this culture and their lifestyle,” MSU wrote.

Sounds of Silence

Miranda Matise, president of Sounds of Silence, and Deanna Guarino, vice president of Sounds of Silence were a part of the creation of the organization in the Fall of 2018, shortly after entering their freshman year at Southeastern. “The purpose [of the organization] is to spread deaf awareness across campus and make more students aware of sign language, because a lot of students come across deaf people in their careers, like with teaching or working at restaurants. Not only for deaf people, but for autistic kids too,” Matise said. She explained that many autistic students do not use speech and therefore utilize ASL as their way of communication.

Guarino explained that not only does the organization bring awareness to the deaf community and deaf culture, but it also allows students to learn signs that would help them communicate in their classes, work, outside lives, etc. with deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

Meeting Details and Information

Sounds of Silence meetings are every other Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. during the semester and cover a variety of topics. “Every meeting we review the different signs that we learned the previous week. We have a segment about deaf culture and bring up new information about that. We bring up a new genre of signs, and we ask members what genre they would like to learn next,” Guarino said.

During the organization’s first meeting of the Fall 2019 semester on Oct. 2, members voted to learn signs regarding families and restaurants, and they will continue to review and build up their vocabulary as the semester continues.

Advocating for the Deaf Community

 Matise and Guarino both highlighted misconceptions that people have about the deaf community or learning ASL. “Deaf people love to be deaf, and they do not want to be discriminated against because they know they can do anything, they just can’t hear,” Matise said. “People are deaf not dumb. You do not have to talk to them in a different way than you would others, or slow down your words,” Guarino said.

Sounds of Silence wants its members to be equipped with knowledge to communicate with deaf people and be advocates as well. “Not many people are fluent in sign [language] that attends the meetings, but we all learn together. It’s more of a community than anything. We also have members of the deaf community come in and speak,” Guarino said.

Future Events

Along with bi-weekly meetings throughout the semester, Guarino and Matise have future events and plans for the organization. “Next year we plan on having a deaf awareness week,” Guarino said. Some tentative plans for the week include a Q&A session and a silent disco. “Advocating for the club itself to get more people involved in that, so it doesn’t just bring awareness for a week but it brings more people into the organization so we can have a more widespread awareness for the whole university,” Guarino said.

Matise explained that if any student is interested in joining Sounds of Silence, they have until Wednesday Oct. 30. Since the organization continues to build on cumulative material, students must join by then to be a part of this semester as a member, but non-members are welcome to come. Matise and Guarino both highlighted the fact that students can be a part of advocating for the deaf community by also learning ASL independently and practicing their sign language with deaf people that they meet.

If you have questions or would like more information about Sounds of Silence, contact slusoundsofsilence@gmail.com or visit southeastern.edu.

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