An ASL Oasis
by Kim Persky | published Sep. 26th, 2014
As the days get shorter and colder and the homework gets more plentiful, you will probably be spending more time in the library. If you want to take a break from pretending to do your homework, though, visit the RIT American Sign Language and Deaf Studies Community Center (RADSCC) on the first floor of Wallace Library.
Given that RIT has 1,200 Deaf and hard-of-hearing students and that Rochester has the highest Deaf population per capita in the country, it is beneficial for everyone to know about ASL and Deaf culture.
This semester, every Tuesday at 12 p.m. the RADSCC hosts “ASL @ Lunch.” Here, students and faculty members of any skill level can practice their ASL conversational skills, particularly those necessary for communicating with food workers. It’s a lot easier to use ASL with the numerous deaf student workers in food service on campus than to have to use the notepad checklists every time. RADSCC also hosts events and lectures frequently. Interpreters are always provided, so not knowing ASL is not an excuse not to go.
The week of September 14 to 20 was Rochester Deaf Awareness Week. Presentations, workshops and events were going on around Rochester, hosted by a variety of Deaf-run organizations in town.
Lori DeWindt and Sharon Haynes, two deaf mental health professionals/researchers from the Deaf Wellness Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center, presented on Friday at RADSCC. The topic was “Understanding Anxiety and Depression in the Deaf Community.”
The women gave an overview of anxiety vs. depression and discussed normal symptoms along with when those symptoms become reasons for concern. Their general rule was that stress, anxiety or sadness that is triggered by school, work or bad grades and lasts for about two weeks is normal. When these symptoms are continuous and detrimental to relationships, it is time to seek help.
Using a PowerPoint and a lot of visuals and graphs, DeWindt and Haynes showed the differences between anxiety and depression and the trigger categories - genetic, environmental, biological and psychological. It is very hard to categorize the reasons for anxiety and depression, though, and for most individuals the cause of their symptoms is a combination of all four categories.
One significant aspect of Deaf culture is its collectivism; there is a responsibility to work towards the greater good of the community as a whole. One question that Lori posed to the audience was how community accountability can be increased. Since a common Deaf experience is a feeling of isolation or being left out from the hearing majority, audience members discussed ways of supporting each other in order to ensure that nobody’s anxiety or depression symptoms get out of hand.
A huge topic of discussion recently is removing the stigma of depression. Proponents argue that since we don’t have shame or embarrassment related to physical illnesses, we should not have shame or embarrassment attached to mental illness. Haynes said that people come to the Deaf Wellness Center and fear that somebody will see them and label them as crazy.
At the conclusion of the presentation, DeWindt and Haynes explained the latest research at the Center on informed consent. They are studying Deaf people’s understanding of medical forms and other legal documents presented in written English compared to a video in ASL. As part of the larger National Center on Deaf Health Research, there are always copious amounts of research being conducted on numerous topics related to Deaf health at the Deaf Wellness Center.
If any student wishes to seek help for his or her depression or anxiety, they can contact the Counseling Center at (585) 475-2261, located on the second floor of the August Center.