Pima Participates in Deaf Awareness Month

Pima Post

September is Deaf Awareness Month, a time to recognize the unique culture and languages of the Deaf community.

The North American Deaf community includes those who are deaf, deafblind, and hard-of-hearing as well as Children of Deaf Adults (CODAs). 

According to Gallaudet University, approximately 0.9-2.2% of the US population has what the University refers to as “a severe hearing impairment or is functionally deaf.”

While not all those people are part of the Deaf community, Ernest Willman, one of Pima’s American Sign Language professors, is among them.

Willman, speaking through an interpreter, says, “I am from a generationally Deaf family. My parents are Deaf and my siblings are also Deaf.”

While the Deaf community is vast and diverse, they are united by shared values, beliefs, and language.

“The Deaf existence, which Deaf culture is based on, is different than the majority culture of our spoken world that we live in,” says Willman. “Our current culture is very audio-centric; the way that we live our lives and define success is based off the ability to hear. Deaf culture does not have that perspective. A common misconception that people have is that Deaf people need hearing people to survive in the world. We are independent, skilled, capable people, from all the way to Deaf doctors, attorneys, administrators, architects, researchers, authors, engineers, teachers, audiologists.”

When asked if he felt that Pima serves its deaf and hard-of-hearing population well, Willman had this to say:

“I’m very fortunate that I’ve had a lot of support from the college in providing an interpreter,” says Willman. “I have a preferred list of interpreters that is honored by the college. I have guaranteed interpreting hours every week that is set aside as an accommodation. I recognize and appreciate their commitment and desire for me as a faculty member to have access and be successful.”

Students can also have access to an interpreter through Pima’s Access and Disability Resources, among other accommodations.

While Pima makes an effort to support its deaf and hard-of-hearing students and faculty, there are still certain areas in which it falls short, one of which is inclusivity in decision-making. 

“Oftentimes, as a deaf employee and faculty member, when decisions are being made that can impact faculty, staff, and students who are deaf, I feel that they could be avoided or harm reduced if there was some consultation prior to the decision with individuals who are subject matter experts and are in the Deaf community.”

Despite this, Willman acknowledges that these problems are part of a wider societal issue, and Willman has said Pima has a “good commitment to providing accommodations”.

Pima’s ASL students range from those with a casual interest in sign language to those seeking careers in interpreting. For students enrolled in an ASL class, Pima has practice labs at the East, West and Northwest campuses, in which students of all skill levels have the opportunity to work on their grammar and vocabulary through games and conversations with lab staff.

“Some students know more ASL, some know nothing. There’s diverse levels of signing,” says Samuel Garcia Jr., a staff member at the West Campus lab. 

Other off-campus resources available to students interested in ASL and Deaf culture are welcome to attend meet-ups at the Scented Leaf Tea House on Tuesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., where students can meet and converse with members of the Deaf community. 

The West campus cafeteria will be hosting two events for Deaf Awareness Month; on Tuesday, September 19th, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m., there will be a screening of Lake Windfall. On Wednesday, September 27th, there will be a panel of Deaf community members discussing their experiences from 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.