Building Deaf culture on campus

ASL club president, Paul Bourgeois is advocating for better access to communication tools for Deaf students at George Brown College

Being someone who is Deaf comes with its own challenges and being misunderstood by others only makes it worse.

“It’s not that we ‘can’t’ hear, it’s that we ‘don’t’!” said Paul Bourgeois, challenging a common misconception often placed on people who are Deaf.

Bourgeois is the American Sign Language (ASL) club president and accessibility representative at the Student Association (SA) of George Brown College (GBC).  The Dialog is funded by the SA.

“Audism; everybody should look it up and understand what it is!” he added.

This refers to the discrimination Deaf people face on a regular basis.

According to the Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD), discrimination comes in the form of being forced to conform to the expectations of non-Deaf people.

In some cases, people who are not Deaf have a greater input in making choices that would affect the Deaf, the association added.

CAD pointed out that for those who do not hear, their first language is visual, placing written/spoken as the second.

It is common for Deaf people to communicate with others through writing ‘back and forth’ as not all of them will be able to read lips, Bourgeois explained.

“Deaf people go through this all the time, while for other people it can seem like an annoying thing to do, but a little patience can make a Deaf person’s day,” he said.

As a part of his role on campus, the ASL club president is working to fund projects to afford Deaf students more accessible means of communicating. 

One such project is a video relay services booth at St. James campus.

Inside the booth, there would be a tablet available where Deaf students would have access to a video interpreter.

This will allow them to communicate in sign language when making calls, for instance, “to order pizza or call their family in their most comfortable language,” Bourgeois said.

Bourgeois encourages students at GBC to learn about Deaf culture by exposing themselves to it, the same way they would for any other culture.

Being the captain of the hockey team as well, another one of Bourgeois initiatives is to organize a charity hockey game at Mattamy Athletic Centre.

This is in partnership with the college and the Ontario Deaf Hockey Association.

Proceeds from the event would go towards supplementing the cost of the Deaf Youth Canada Leadership Camp in 2020. This event will be hosted in British Columbia and is co-chaired by Bourgeois.

In promotion of the hockey game, the ASL club also held an ASL Skate Night at the same location on Nov. 17.

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Building Deaf culture on campus