One of the homework assignments for my ASL class this quarter is to attend a Deaf community event and write a response about how you felt and what you learned from the event. When I first got the assignment at the beginning of the quarter, I didn't think twice about it. But as the due date got closer and closer, I started to get really nervous about it. I am not deaf or hard of hearing and was very skeptical about being welcome or accepted at an NTID event. I was also nervous about not being able to understand anything that was going on because my knowledge of ASL is still pretty basic. However, I was running out of time and could avoid going no longer.
With my friend and classmate in tow, I walked hesitantly into a seminar title, "Be Safe" that was about sexual health. Before the lecture started, my friend and I sat in the back of the room feeling super awkward and conspicuously not Deaf. A guy in the audience came up to us and asked if we wanted him to voice for us (interpret) because he could tell we didn't know ASL. At first, I was totally embarrassed that we so obviously ASL rookies but quickly put that aside and was so grateful to him for offering. When the seminar started, the presenters asked if anyone needed voicing before they got started. I was so impressed by everyone's awareness of a mainstream (deaf and hearing) audience and felt very welcome. The presenters wanted us to be able to participate and since our signing skills aren't up to par, they made sure we could follow along.
The seminar ended up being really great! It was humorous and entertaining and I'm really glad I went. It also taught me a lot about Deaf culture. It was scary at first but everyone was so encouraging and welcoming that I quickly felt like a part of the group.
Even if you don't take ASL, I would highly recommend you attend Deaf events and get involved in the Deaf community here at RIT. It's such a unique aspect of RIT culture that you truly cannot get anywhere else in the world. It's a great way to learn about a new culture and even make new friends!