Oral tradition, but not aurally

There is no microphone at this open mic event- that’s because the performers are using sign language.For the first time in my experience, someone needs to translate for “the hearing,” instead of for the deaf.”I wanted people at UVM to have exposure to deafness and deaf values,” signed KeriOgrizovich, American Sign Language (ASL) program coordinator, to an interpreter.It usually goes without saying that Open Mic nights require the microphone. But Thursday night at the Living/Learning Lounge, ASL held its Open Mic Night to acknowledge that October is Deaf and Disability Awareness Month.The event also served as a way for ASL students to have exposure to using sign language. They’re required to come, shesaid.ASL students shared poems, jokes, and stories. Even if sign language isn’t your first language, the facial expressions,body movements and mouthed words of the performers helped convey the messages and events of the narratives.The interpreter’s voice inflected the storyteller’s, and became a part of the overall tone. She incorporated nuances ofspeech that the hearing enabled may take for granted, such as the voice’s higher pitch at the end of a question.Instead of clapping, the audience was told to spread out their fingers and shake their hands. “Hearing people can hear the clapping, but it doesn’t mean a lot to a deaf audience,” Ogrizovich signed.While entertainment and education were on the agenda Thursday night, the Open Micalso revealed UVM’s stance on deaf students, pointing to possible neglect of the hearing impaired.”UVM doesn’t recognize American Sign Language as a language, so students have totake it as an elective,” Ogrizovich said. “It’s important for students to be able to take it as a foreign language requirement.It is common at other schools, so why not at UVM?”I hope this will encourage the University community to add ASL as a language,” she said. The audience’s laughter and open reception of the ASL Open Mic participants proved that you don’t need words to understand what people are saying.