GREENSBORO, N.C. — It's a different, different world out there, especially for those who are deaf, hard of hearing or deaf and blind.
The tables were turned for the American Sign Language students at UNCG as they navigated various stations simulating problems the deaf/blind community faces doing everyday tasks during an event called "It's A Different, Different World."
The Greensboro Regional Center for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing hosted the event, a division of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
In “It’s a Different, Different World” participants enter a world where speech communication isn’t used and where body language and sign language are the key players.
Participants are welcome to communicate in any form of gestures, reading, formal signs, facial expressions, and finger-spelling as long as they don’t use their voice.
Christina Moore, Deaf Services Specialist for the Greensboro Regional Center, lead the activity and is deaf herself.
Moore shared that the event “is designed for people to get a taste and experience what it’s like for us as deaf, hard of hearing, deaf/blind individuals in a hearing world.”
According to Karen DeNaples, Senior Lecturer of Sign Language at UNCG, this event helps students understand the culture of sign language in addition to the language itself.
“It is important that the ASL students understand the language but also understand the culture as well,” DeNaples said through Erica Harris, an interpreter with the Greensboro Regional Center and alumna of UNCG’s Sign Language program.
“Communication access is really a struggle for many deaf people, deaf/blind and hard of hearing as well,” she continued.
At the first station, students met Nicole Alleman, the Deaf Blind Services Specialist for the Division of Services for the Deaf and the Heard of Hearing, for an exercise on vision loss.
Alleman is deaf/blind and with the help of her support team of haptic specialists, she showed students what a day in her own life is like.
Students were required to wear special goggles that restrict vision as they complete hands-on activities with maps and connecting-the-dots.
In another station, students placed 5 to 6 marshmallows in their mouths at one time and read phrases without being allowed to use hand gestures or expressions to simulate individuals with speech disorders.
"Many of the students are in total shock with that experience," DeNaples said. "Me, as a culturally deaf person teaching the class they learn a lot." she added, explaining that her entire household is deaf or hard of hearing.
With opportunities like this one, American Sign Language program aims to makes opportunities available for students to engage in the American Sign Language community on and off campus.
The Division of Services for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing provides services to Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deaf-Blind individuals, their families and professionals, free of charge.
For a full list of regional centers in North Carolina, click here.