BYU ASL Club helps students practice, connect with others

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The BYU ASL Club helps members practice ASL and learn about deaf culture. Members of the club talk about their experience and the club’s mission. (Annika Ohran)

The BYU ASL Club provides a place for people to belong, learn sign language and interact with others. 

The club has been active at BYU for almost 30 years, according to club social media coordinator Sarah Shirley. Shirley said the purpose of the club is to give students and people learning American Sign Language the opportunity to practice signing with others, especially to apply vocabulary in full phrases and conversations.

The ASL Club teaches members about how to interact with deaf people and treat them with respect, as well as other aspects of deaf culture, Shirley said.

The club meets once a week, and typically plays different games to help members practice and apply their ASL knowledge in a variety of ways, Shirley said. 

BYU freshman Caroline Beard recently joined the club and said games take the stress off practicing. Beard started taking ASL classes this semester, and wanted to learn ASL to be able to communicate with hard-of-hearing people.

Beard said having a cousin who is deaf and knowing other deaf people is also part of why she wants to learn ASL. The ASL Club helps her practice both with people who are at her same level, and to challenge herself to sign with people who are more advanced than she is. 

There are some deaf members of the club, including recent BYU—Idaho graduate Landon McCarl. McCarl does not attend BYU, but said he came to Provo to meet new people and get to know other deaf individuals. McCarl said he heard about the ASL Club from a friend who attended BYU and decided to go to meet other people and help others learn ASL. 

“I love teaching and helping everyone understand the language and the culture,” McCarl said. “And helping them communicate with deaf people.”

Connecting with deaf people is one of the main ways the ASL Club hopes to help students have an impact, Shirley said.

“Our hope is to give students tools to communicate with deaf people, not being afraid to talk with them and advocate for them and their access to communication … we hope that students learn something and learn something about … interacting with people that are different than them,” Shirley said. 

Even if people do not know sign language, anyone can help with accessibility for those who are deaf and hard of hearing, Shirley said. She also said accessibility can be brought about in simple ways, such as putting subtitles on a video or introducing yourself to someone, even if it seems intimidating at first. Including others can make a world of difference, she said.

Shirley said even though it may seem intimidating at first because of the silence, they want people there and help is always available.

“If you’re interested in ASL, come and learn. It’s fun and it’s so social. It’s a really easy language to learn and pick up really quickly,” McCarl said. 

More information about the ASL club can be found on their Instagram page.

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