Kwantlen Student Association President Jaya Dhillon is looking to create American Sign Language workshops for Kwantlen Polytechnic University students and faculty.
Dhillon, who is also the students with disabilities representative, reported her proposal for the ASL initiative at a KSA council meeting in June. Dhillon says this project was something that she wanted to start a couple of years ago when first elected as a student with disabilities representative.
There is no one single universal sign language because different regions create their own versions of sign language. There are between 138 and 300 different types of sign language used around the world. Dhillon decided to go with ASL because it is most commonly used in North America.
“The pandemic highlighted the urgency of [learning] American Sign Language and also highlighted the importance of it too,” says Dhillon.
The mask mandate made it difficult for individuals and the deaf and hard of hearing community, because it often made it impossible to lip-read what others were saying. However, knowing ASL makes it easier for them to communicate with others.
“In the news, we had interpreters interpreting what the politicians and doctors were saying, so I think it’s important to bring that to KPU that’s open for all staff and faculty. That way, it would perhaps be basic knowledge and be able to bring the community together to communicate more effectively,” she says.
To begin the workshops, the KSA is planning on hiring a local interpreter or teacher and have them do one to two workshops per semester.
The KSA is still deciding whether to do the workshops online or in person. However, Dhillon says that most of the workshops might be online.
“We’re going to do level one. If it’s successful, they might increase it to level two, so [participants] get more knowledgeable on it. If it is successful, then we can just have it more frequently. But for the first semester, hopefully in the fall, we can start it. Maybe one to two workshops and see how it goes,” she says.
If the ASL workshops get a lot of attraction from students and faculty, Dhillon says the KSA could do a partnership with KPU to consistently have ongoing classes.
“We are thinking of working with the [Department of Language and Cultures] and see if they’re also willing to work with us as well. That way, we can actually make it a class. But for now, I think for the first year, we’re just thinking of workshops and seeing how successful it is.”
The following steps will consist of Dhillon and Lesli Sangha, the KSA mature student representative, figuring out how to install the workshops, a project Dhillon says the KSA is interested in doing.
“The KSA does sometimes offer workshops, I believe. So, it’s from there that we are going to promote it and hopefully hold the workshop.”