American Sign Language class to be offered this spring

By: Patricia Menendez/Staff Writer


An American Sign Language is being offered at the University for the first time in years following requests from hundreds of students and faculty.

The course, American Sign Language I (ASL 1993), will take place on Wednesdays at SASC 202 and Thursdays at PC 441 from 5 p.m. to 7:40 p.m with Professor John Paul Jebian. It will be teaching the sentence structure, grammar, communication, and vocabulary of the language.

Jebian himself was a Deaf student. He graduated from FIU in 1996 and has been teaching American Sign Language (ASL) for 22 years and has taught at both G. Holmes Braddock Senior High School and Miami-Dade College-North Campus.

Jebian is also the founder and president of Waving Hands, a non-profit organization that seeks to connect the Deaf community in South Florida and promote its awareness to the public through social events and workshops.

As a Deaf college student, Jebian had other students take notes for him because there were not many interpreters during his college years according to him.

Professor Jebian met with Honors College senator, Dominique Rose Ingraham, a sophomore computer science major, during a tabling event in March 2017.

Ingraham said that she was the only person at the SGA table when Professor Jebian and his interpreter approached her. She described it as a ‘right place at the right time’ moment. Professor Jebian had told Ingraham that he had been trying to get in contact with SGA for a while to help him bring an ASL course to FIU.

Ingraham told Student Media that she met with Jebian and Joshua Metellus, one of 50 Deaf students currently registered with the Disability Resource Center. Metellus who was helping the professor advocate for an ASL program on campus.

“I set up a meeting with [Professor Jebian], Joshua Metellus, and another deaf alumnus. It was the four of us in a room, along with the interpreter, and they were basically all telling me that… there were resources for Deaf students but not to the extent that it would make their college experience the same as an enabled student,” Ingraham said.

Laws such as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and The Americans with Disabilities Act protect the rights of students to have equal access to public entities such as university affiliated events. However, if the event is not affiliated with FIU, they are not required to make accommodations for the student.

Metellus, a senior recreational therapy major who will be taking the course this semester, said that he has to inform FIU of any public event he plans to attend two to three weeks prior to ask for assistance, meaning that he cannot do anything last-minute.

“The only thing I struggle with is when it comes to group conversations which everyone talks all at once as I’m trying to read everyone’s lips at a quick pace. It’s always good to see when a couple of my classmate signs to me in ASL to make the communication work between us,” Metellus said.

Jebian and Metellus began a petition in January 2017 to create an ASL program in FIU. By March 2017, it had received over 600 signatures, including that of Alexa Duran, the student who lost her life in the bridge collapse in March 2018. Jebian said that she had been one of the people that was “enthusiastically waiting” for the class.

“I always got asked to teach ASL to my peers, classmates, friends and even workers that attend FIU. Plus, students asked me why FIU has so many languages but not ASL? We have an ASL Club but it’s not enough,” Metellus said.

Making the ASL course an SGA initiative, Ingraham facilitated the process of the course’s approval by sending many emails and arranging meetings.

She explained to Student Media that in order to create a new course in FIU one must have a syllabus, a professor and a department that the course will fall under. She had the professor and the syllabus from Professor Jebian’s course in MDC.

After some work and petitioning, the Department of Modern Languages accepted the course, and it will be available for students in spring 2019.

Jebian said that he hopes that the classes will expand throughout the years and that in the future FIU will offer other levels of ASL as well as a sign language interpreter program.

“This will enhance so much awareness and now anytime [students will be] able to meet a Deaf student on campus wanting to talk or is in need of assistance, they can be there for them if needed. FIU can now be more Deaf friendly as well and it’ll allow more Deaf students to feel more included than being left out in a conversation,” Metellus said.


Featured image retrieved from Unsplash

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