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Sign language dinner raises awareness


Sara Blazic '09, founder of the Emerson Sign Language Club, at the annual Silent Dinner on March 14, when participants could only speak using non-verbal communication during the meal. (Photo by Aja Neahring '13)

The Emerson College American Sign Language Club held its annual Silent Dinner on March 14, an hour-long event encouraging those who are and aren’t fluent in sign language to communicate without using words for the duration of the meal.

“I’m excited to see so many people still interested in the club,” said Sara Blazic ’09, the club’s founder, who is deaf. She is currently an instructor of writing at Columbia University.

Blazic gave the keynote speech to attendees that included members of the ASL Club and the wider Emerson community.

American Sign Language speakers cheerfully signed throughout the meal and non-speakers were given an opportunity to learn their first words in sign language—“pizza,” “cheese,” and “napkin” to name a few—thanks to helpful signs posted around the room.

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Katherine Agel '15 and Jessica Tully '15, both Communication Sciences and Disorders majors, at the annual Silent Dinner on March 14. (Photo by Aja Neahring '13)

This year’s Silent Dinner—meant to raise awareness of communicating non-verbally—gave participants a peek at the history of Emerson’s American Sign Language Club as well as a refreshed enthusiasm for its future.

“Before I graduated back in 2009, I started this club to give people a chance to learn about ASL, even if they weren’t taking a class in it,” Blazic said.

Blazic said that obtaining a degree in Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson while using a translator in class was never a bother. She noted that her initial motivation for starting the Sign Language Club was to provide an outlet for those who use sign language, as well as a source for Emerson students who were curious about it.

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Kiera Murray '14 and Molly Drenzek '13 at the annual Silent Dinner on March 14. (Photo by Aja Neahring '13)

“There was no place for students to use ASL outside the classroom,” she said, using a translator while addressing dinner attendees.

Blazic examines deaf culture in her blog, Redeafined, where she shares information on deaf education, media attention, the rights of deaf people, and her own personal experiences.

“I think there is a lot of wrong information out there about people who are deaf,” she said. “Writing is a powerful thing and if you keep writing, people will listen.”

Emerson College offers a sign language minor for undergraduates through the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department

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