Learning American Sign Language

Ryan Roy on Saturday, 18 November 2017. Posted in Clubs, Festivals, Libraries, Student Life

One of my favorite features about RIT is that we share a campus with another college! The Rochester Institute of Technology and the National Technical Institute of the Deaf have shared a campus since NTID began operating in 1968.

About 10% of our students at RIT/NTID are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. This means that RIT’s campus has a rich Deaf community and there are ample opportunities to get exposed to Deaf culture and start learning American Sign Language. My freshman year at RIT, I lived in Mark Ellingson Hall on a mainstream floor with hearing, Deaf, and Hard of Hearing students. One of my Residential Advisors was Deaf as well! I’ve always loved learning more ASL and was extremely excited to immerse myself in Deaf culture and improve my skills.

If you’re interested in learning American Sign Language, one of the first resources people will direct you to is No Voice Zone. This is an event that takes place every Wednesday Night in the Student Development Center. As soon as you enter the room, you are not allowed to use your voice. If you don’t know any ASL, you will be given a whiteboard so you can write down what you want to say or write down any questions you have. They’ll start you out with the basics like the alphabet and as you improve, you’ll move into more advanced groups. This event is a lot of fun to attend with friends and it’s an awesome way to make new friends!

RIT’s College of Liberal Arts also offers a plethora of ASL classes. If you wanted to learn it formally, this is a great opportunity for you to take! All of our ASL classes are conducted 100% in ASL without any spoken English. If you are in ASL I, there will be a voice interpreter on the first day but after that, they won’t be in your class again. This might scare you, but don’t worry! The professors are incredibly clear and if you don’t understand something that they’re signing, they can tell and will do everything they can to help you understand them.

If you have some free time and are on the academic side of campus, you should visit the Wallace Center - which is where our campus library is. On the first floor is a really cool space called the RIT ASL Deaf Studies Community Center which is also known as RADSCC. It’s a really great place to hang out and meet some Deaf or Hard of Hearing students and faculty members.

Finally, every fall semester, there is a Deaf event hosted right outside the Student Development Center called Applefest. Deaf clubs, businesses, and fraternities/sororities table outside and are available for you to interact with. There’s music, dancing, and free food (mostly apple related)!

I would highly recommend taking an ASL class or getting involved in the Deaf community on RIT’s campus. You will not only learn a new language but will also get immersed in another culture and make some amazing friends!