Deaf community finds home at Georgetown with GU Signs
The Georgetown Voice
Posted on March 5, 2014 by Mary Bridget Smith
The Georgetown campus enjoys a privileged location in our nation’s capital, perched atop the Potomac, within walking distance of the National Mall and countless museums. All of this you can find in the stacks and stacks of mail Georgetown undoubtedly sent to your home in an attempt to persuade you to finally send in your enrollment deposit. (And, hey, apparently it worked.) What those shiny pamphlets failed to mention, though, is that Washington, D.C., also serves as the de facto capital of America’s Deaf community, and is home to the world’s only university for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, Gallaudet University.
For attending university in the largest Deaf hub in America, Georgetown students have precious little access to the Deaf community’s language, American Sign Language. ASL is a natural language, completely separate from English, with its own grammar and syntax resembling Mandarin Chinese more than English. Georgetown does not offer a single class in the language of our peers at Gallaudet, forcing interested students to trek to GW or Gallaudet for classes through the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area.
Attempting to fill that gap is GU Signs, an entirely student-run club offering free ASL lessons every other Thursday night, and of which I am a board member. The club also facilitates cultural field trips to places like Gallaudet’s campus and the ASL Poetry Slam at Busboys and Poets. All of this is aimed at filling in where Georgetown has left off in terms of getting Georgetown students acquainted with and involved in D.C.’s vibrant but little-publicized Deaf community, a task that Georgetown’s course offerings have insufficiently accomplished.