Speaking Through Sign

Colgate University accommodates physically handicapped students, faculty, and staff in a variety of ways. Although often overlooked, Braille can be found in dorms and academic buildings, ramps and elevators make locations wheelchair accessible and automatic doors adorn the entrances of many buildings. In addition to this list of services, an American Sign Language course will be offered during the Spring semester to everyone on campus. “Over the past two summers, there has been a student from the Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf who has worked at ITS,” Network and Systems Administrator and member of Colgate’s Life Long Learners, Jennifer Servedio, said. This RIT student taught sign language to many staff members during the summer and inspired Servedio to reoffer the course. “A sign language course had been offered at Colgate a while ago and [recently], students have been asking Lynn Waldman, the Administrative Advisor for Colgate’s Life Long Learners, if there would be a course offered to learn sign language,” said Servedio. Colgate’s Life Long Learners, an organization comprised of Colgate employees who continue to pursue higher education, collaborated with Waldman and the Office of Academic Programs Support and Disability Services to make this course available on campus. An increase in interest from students and faculty in a sign language course prompted Colgate’s Life Long Learners to offer the course again. Servedio and Colgate’s Life Long Learner spent over a year collaborating with the Office of Academic Program Support and Disability Services to obtain funding, find an instructor and establish a sign language class at Colgate. On January 11, an email was sent to inform all Colgate students, faculty and staff that The Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) would be teaching an American Sign Language Course at Colgate over a 10 week period. After the email was distributed, students and faculty immediately responded, showed an overwhelming amount of interest in the course. “The class size had to be limited to 25 people,” said Servedio. ” So far we have had to turn away over 60 people.” Servedio stressed that the course received interest from both students and staff. The faculty included two members of campus safety who felt that a sign language course would be useful during their job. Servedio has even been contacted by hearing impaired students who desire to involve themselves with the class by serving as tutors. “[I hope the course will] broaden people’s horizons,” Servedio said. “ITS will make them more aware that there are talented students on campus with disabilities. We should give them a chance like everyone else.” In the future, Servedio hopes to continue offering sign language courses to students, faculty and staff at Colgate.