Baylor ASL club provides connection with deaf community

At an ASL event, Aid The Silent, participants hold up sign language for "love." Abby Roper | Photographer

By Piper Rutherford | Staff Writer

Baylor’s American Sign Language Club, founded in 2011, provides a space to connect with those who are deaf through the use of hand gestures and facial expressions, promoting an appreciation for deaf culture along the way.

Denton junior and ASL Club president Chloe Brown said interacting with the deaf community is what initially attracted her to learning the language.

“What is cool about ASL is that it is its own separate language, since it does not rely on verbal cues like all of the other languages,” Brown said.

Brown said her decision to join the ASL Club her freshman year was an easy one to make, given her background and familiarity with ASL.

“I was lucky enough to attend a high school where sign language was offered as a foreign language credit, so I took that as my second language, which makes this year my sixth year of signing,” Brown said. “My parents also took sign language during college, and my mom even had a job as an interpreter.”

While Baylor does not offer ASL as a major or minor, Brown said she has enjoyed the classes she has taken at Baylor so far.

“I have taken American Sign Language three, four and five,” Brown said. “My favorite was ASL four, where I gained an understanding of how to use classifiers, which is a way to describe things with hand shapes in place of nouns and verbs.”

Brown said learning ASL has been a great opportunity to connect with something bigger than herself, introducing her to a whole new community of people.

“It is so special to walk alongside those who use ASL as their first language,” Brown said. “Now, as a hearing person, I have a chance to learn from these gracious individuals, who let me have access to a language that they love and is a major part of their lives.”

Austin senior and ASL Club vice president Bailey Rubin is a deaf education major who plans to teach deaf K-12 students upon graduation. For those who want to learn ASL, she said there are two simple steps to follow to be successful.

“I started learning sign language when I was 9, and I recommend that you learn ASL online from Dr. Bill Vicars, who has tons of helpful and free YouTube videos,” Rubin said. “My second recommendation is to interact with deaf people so that you can learn from them.”

Rubin said what has been special about her experience at Baylor is that her ASL classes are fully immersive with signing since all of her ASL professors are deaf.

“The ASL Club’s purpose is to spread awareness about the deaf community,” Rubin said. “A lot of people think being deaf is a burden, but we talk about what we call ‘deaf gain’ and how being deaf is awesome, because those who are deaf are proud to be deaf.”