Photo: Farnia Fekri

The signs of an accessible future

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By Mallory Chate 

This fall, Ryerson students can enrol in a course that lets them communicate without even having to speak.

The American Sign Language class is offered through RyeACCESS, a student run equity group at Ryerson. The course is created to bring awareness and equality for students with disabilities, aiming to bring forth an empowered university community.

Both beginner and intermediate sign language classes are hosted throughout the semester.

“Offering classes to teach people how to interact with people of the deaf, or hard of hearing, community will definitely make for a more enjoyable and comfortable time [for everyone],” said Angela Alimi, a radio and television arts student. “It’s great to be able to learn a new skill and apply it to better yourself and others around you in a learning environment like Ryerson.”

Alimi signed up for the ASL classes after working at a summer camp with children who could only communicate through sign language. Inspired by her experiences and looking to develop a new skill, she said she jumped at the opportunity that RyeACCESS offered.

During the fall term, the beginner class runs every Monday night and the intermediate is held on Tuesdays. For $30, an instructor from the Canadian Hearing Society (CHS) comes to teach. According to the CHS website, instructors use a “no-voice” method. In the process of learning sign language, insight into the life of someone who only communicates through ASL is an important factor.

“At the beginning of the course, I was a bit intimidated because the instructor only spoke in sign language. However, this made for the best type of instruction and I was able to communicate with her… despite the differences between us,” said Alimi.

Alimi said she enjoyed the beginner class so much that she signed up for the intermediate course. “ASL is quite easy to pick up and retain as long as you practice it, I also ended up making a few friends in the course.”

Practical courses like ASL expand beyond academic knowledge and provide good networking opportunities. With a more competitive job market, sign language has become a reputable skill to have on a resume.

“I’m the type of person that enjoys learning new things, especially things like language,” said Jasmin Husain, a third-year journalism student. “I know many people may not think of sign language as … a “language”, but I think it would be an unbelievable experience to try something that’s outside of my norm.”

RyeACCESS focus is on changing the way people think and feel about the word “disability,” considering that accessibility issues expand well beyond campus. ASL classes are also offered in the winter semester.


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