Sign language club breaks barriers for hearing impaired

According to the American Sign Language Club, there is a cultural divide between the hearing and deaf community, which has its own unique culture.

The ASL Club met for the first time this semester last Tuesday and held an informational free cultural event last Friday with speaker Dennis Bivins, an ASL teacher at Indian Land High School.

Bivins spoke on Friday about ASL and the deaf community. “How many people are deaf?” Bivins asked the audience with his hand to his ear. “American Sign Language is the third-most-spoken language in the United States,” he said.

He stressed the importance of learning about the deaf community and discussed the community’s unique etiquette. “Deaf people think that all of you think that they are handicapped, when all that is true is that they cannot hear.”

Katie Parenti, a junior social work major and founder of the ASL Club, announced the event at the meeting Tuesday. She teaches ASL at the meetings and stresses its importance.

“I think that it’s really good for visual learners, and obviously it looks really good on resumes— learning ASL [and] being in the club. There are many hard-of-hearing on campus.”

Learning it, she said, helps with communication, critical thinking and bridging the gap between the hearing and deaf.

“Imagine being deaf in a hearing world,” Parenti said. “They accommodate us. They learn our language.”

This is why Parenti teaches ASL at the club meetings, and why Connor Renfroe, among others, came to the first meeting. Renfroe, a sophomore English major, said, “I was excited to learn ASL just to have another skill.”

Parenti believes that more hearing people should learn ASL. That is why she hopes Winthrop will start a class for teaching it as a foreign language.

“The head of the Psych Department… he’s been trying to start up a class for a long time,” Parenti said. “He hasn’t been able to because of the obstacles.”

Parenti is handling the obstacles. She said she has found a potential teacher for the course and hopes to work with Winthrop for getting this class in the future. She is also happy about the cultural event held on Friday.

Marrissa Velez, a freshman English major and former student of Bivins’, was pleased with the event and considering joining the ASL Club.

“I was pleased that Winthrop had taken the initiative to do something like this because most places don’t. They just don’t place value on language or the ability to sign,” Velez said at the event.

Those interested in learning ASL can contact Parenti at The club’s meetings are on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. in Owens 101.



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  1. Katie Parenti
    Feb 23, 2014 - 10:10 PM

    Thanks for writing the article! We are having another cultural event on Friday, March 7th at 7pm in Dina’s place. There will be a different guest speaker and she will discuss Deaf culture as well, but will highlight discrimination and advocacy against it. On Tuesday, March 4th at 8pm in Owens 101, we are having a Deaf guest speaker come to tell us about growing up in the school for the Deaf, as well as her interpreter. Anyone interested in learning should come by and see us!

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