Sign language allows UNO students to communicate and connect


Koichi Iwasaki

Several college students are sitting at a table eating lunch and using sign language.
UNO students use sign language to connect over lunch in the Milo Bail Student Center. Photo by Koichi Iwasaki/the Gateway

Deaf Awareness Week 2019 took place this year from Sept. 20-29, with the theme: “Sign Language Rights for All.” This year marks a special milestone in the history of sign languages, with the United National General Assembly recognizing Sept. 23 of each year as the International Day of Sign Languages.

Deaf Awareness Week was established in order to recognize and promote the positives of deafness, support social inclusion and enhance awareness of the organizations supporting deaf people in community, according to the National Association of the Deaf.

Allies for Sign Language (ASL) President Kolten Schnack says Deaf Awareness Week has numerous worldwide events and activities. Looking at local events, he participated in an annual event at Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, which was free to attend on Sept. 22, National Deaf Awareness Day.

The Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing hosted an event for local interpreters and the deaf community at the zoo to come enjoy the presentations in sign language with interpreting services.

“These activities can be helpful for deaf people because they mostly don’t have access to certain information,” Schnack said.

For some people, whether deaf or not, sign language can become a bridge that allows people to communicate with each other.

“For me, it’s easier to communicate in American Sign Language than in English,” said student Seiko Ito, with a big smile on her face.

Ito is an international student from Japan, and she sometimes feels communicating in English is hard for her. She said that deaf people are open-minded and always try to understand her, which has encouraged her to get involved in the deaf community. Ito currently participates in the weekly event “Sign and Dine” and the biweekly “Community Sign and Dine.” She said she has learned new perspectives through these events, and she enjoys conversing in sign language with others.

ASL is currently recruiting new members. Visit the ASL accounts on Instagram and Facebook to learn more about sign language and the deaf community.