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The Phillip Brooks House Association’s Deaf Awareness Coalition, a student group dedicated to raising awareness about Deaf culture, accessibility, and American Sign Language, has started recruiting members for its fall class of volunteers.
Previously known as the Deaf Awareness Club, the organization was rebranded last fall as the Deaf Awareness Coalition under PBHA, with the goal of strengthening its advocacy and service efforts.
DAC co-director Alyvia R. Bruce ’23-’24 said the pandemic negatively impacted the organization and forced it to find a new direction.
“Each semester, we had quite a few members volunteering at Deaf Inc. over in Allston, and we were also doing a couple of service projects with nearby schools,” Bruce said. “Covid hit, and it was really, really difficult to continue to do the events that we were hosting because of how reliant they were on in-person communication.”
“When we all got back to campus last year, in 2021, the institutional memory of DAC was still there, but the membership and the volunteers and all of the events that we were doing were not,” Bruce said.
In addition to event programming, DAC frequently works with Harvard’s ASL language program in the Linguistics Department. Bruce said she hopes to expand this collaboration.
“We currently have one professor, and the classes are being way oversubscribed. He only has the capacity to teach so many students,” Bruce said.
“So we are going to be sending out a petition to students to see in terms of interest levels, so that we can present that to the University. And we are going to be really, really, really pushing for more formal steps to be taken to add additional staff and professors to the ASL program,” she added.
DAC members have been fundraising to allow the organization to continue offering non-credit ASL classes to Harvard students and the greater Boston area.
“For introductory ASL classes, we'll bring in a professor or someone who is certified to teach ASL, and do informal sessions for students who feel like they want to learn, maybe a little bit more than they have the opportunity to,” Bruce said.
Looking ahead, Bruce said the organization plans to host monthly language tables in upperclassman houses and collaborate with local colleges like Boston University for community-service efforts.
DAC is “an organization that is advocating for change at the University and higher level and also creating change at a service level,” Bruce said.
Bruce added that the organization welcomes all skill levels.
“You don't have to know ASL,” she said. “In fact, if you don't know ASL, this would be a great place to practice with people who do.”
— Staff writer Edona Cosovic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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