Students gathered in the Advanced Technology and Science Hall Monday evening to attend a concert and presentation by deaf hip-hop artist Sean Forbes.
Sponsored by the American Sign Language (ASL) Club, Student Government Association (SGA), and President’s Commission on Disability Issues, the event was a fun way to bring deaf advocacy, general awareness of disability and its elimination of associated stigmas to life.
Forbes, a popular artist and icon in the deaf community, performed several original songs before discussing his mission as an advocate.
“I wanted to make music accessible to the deaf that the music business had roadblocks against and just didn’t understand,” said Forbes. “It was really important to me to do something for my community — the deaf community.”
Since the 2000s, Forbes has not only presented across the country, but also created DPAN.tv, a deaf accessible sign language media and entertainment channel. Saturated with captioned and correctly-signed music videos, movies and television shows, the channel has become an essential location that has content created and produced correctly by and for the deaf community.
Forbes’s performance and mission perfectly aligns with the hosting organizations here on campus.
“There are still some students that still feel like there is a stigma attached to disability but we’re finding that through support, accommodations, awareness and the accepting community here on campus, has really helped some students embrace that and seek those services,” said Kim Coffaro, advisor of the ASL Club. “The involvement of the club has improved and increased and there’s a lot more people coming to the meetings.”
Founded in 2005, the club not only learns sign and deaf etiquette, but also partakes in a variety of activities including Relay for Life, Sign-A-Thon, Homecoming and Holidays Around the World.
“For Holidays Around the World, we’ll all meet in the Student Center, pick two songs, which is usually “Winter Wonderland” and whatever the club votes on, learn them and then do it right in front commuter lounge and sign it out,” said ASL Club vice president Katherine Grant. “It helps spread that awareness.”
President Rebecca Robles explained the process further saying, “It’s just a lot of coming together. We look up the words and figure out how we’re going to break [the song] down into sign language and slowly teach it to the club.”
According to Grant, the ASL Club has also been looking at the big picture and into the future of the organization.
“We actually started a petition this year for getting sign language brought to classes,” Grant said. “That’s our overall goal because [sign language] isn’t English, it is different and it’s really growing. If you look around, there’s a lot more interpreters, more programs, and more colleges picking it up.”
Indeed, this increasing interest and advocacy of disabilities is apparent here on campus as seen through the success of Sean Forbes’s concert.
“There’s a lot of disability focused programs here at the University,” Coffaro said. “I mean, we have recreational, occupational, adapted physical therapy, special education and all these different programs that were excited to hear about this big event. Everybody was on board and spreading word.”
Although, the ASL Club has no future events planned for this semester, it’s apparent that the organization will only continue to grow into the next academic year and spread even more awareness across the University.