ASL Center Opens to Educate and Bridge Communities

The Rochester Institute of Technology American Sign Language & Deaf Studies Community Center (RADSCC) opened this week in the center of RIT’s campus. The center was established to provide a comfortable and creative space for deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing students to come together, interact and share their thoughts and ideas. Sign language classes will also be held there.

“In some ways, this center took 45 years to build,” said Gerard Buckley, president of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a college of RIT.

“I see this center being a new bridge between the deaf and hearing communities here at RIT,” Buckley said to the more than 200 students, faculty, staff alumni and community members who packed the Fireside Lounge, directly below the new center, for a ceremonial ribbon cutting. Visitors were given tours and souvenirs adorned with the center’s logo.

“This is an area where we will celebrate that we are a community together, that we have common unity together,” said Buckley. “I hope what happens today grows through the campus, through the nation and through the world. I hope this will inspire mutual education and understanding for years to come.”

RIT President Bill Destler said the center is “yet another step in fulfilling our mission of diversity and inclusivity on the RIT campus. “RIT is truly a wonderful community made all the richer by the diversity provided by the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. And this particular center will allow us to bring the deaf and the hearing communities together here at RIT even more inclusive than in the past for the betterment of our entire community.”

RIT Provost Jeremy Haefner, who heads the university’s deaf access committee, said NTID is known as the model of deaf access throughout the world. “But on this campus, we’re never content,” he said. “There’s always more to do to deepen the understanding that takes place when diverse groups collaborate and seek common ground. The ASL Deaf Studies Community Center is a major step for that deeper understanding.”

RIT Student Government President Greg Pollock, himself deaf, once described the plans for such a center as a seed planted in the heart of RIT.

“Well today that seed has taken root and blossomed,” Pollock said. “We continue the journey towards an inclusive campus. Full understanding comes from the integration of ideas and talents. I encourage all students to spend time in the center.”

Kim Kurz, chair of NTID’s ASL & Interpreter Education program, agreed.

“We’d like the space to become a celebration of American Sign Language and we’d also like the space to become a place where people can come,” she said. “If you’re curious, come see who we are. Our door is always open.”

As visitors toured the center, they learned the history of paintings and photographs displayed there. Students from an NTID acting class also recited poetry in sign language.

“People were sitting and chatting for a long time,” said Center Coordinator Jeanne Behm. “This is because of effortless communication. That’s Deaf culture: you sit and chat. They felt comfortable. It felt like home.”

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