“Deaf Deaf World” immerses visitors in deaf culture

Jenna Bouche

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Imagine a world without talking: a silent world. Each of the hundreds of visitors entering the Griffin Center on April 26th experienced this first-hand as they toured “Deaf Deaf World.” The event, hosted by the American Sign Language (ASL) Department, simulated a deaf town where people communicate through ASL.

Participants signed in and received tags marking their skill level in sign language, from little-to-no knowledge (0) to more experienced signers (4-5). The Griffin Center was set up as a small town with businesses scattered around the Center, such as a Travel Agency and a Veterinarian clinic. Visitors received cue-cards requesting services from one of the businesses, prompting conversation with the volunteers manning the businesses. These cue-cards served as a helpful guide, but participants were also encouraged to mingle and apply their knowledge in real-time communication. Regardless of skill level, participants smiled and signed together, teaching each other new signs and otherwise practicing their sign language. “I enjoyed using sign language in a different environment besides the classroom and it helped me polish my skills in everyday situations,” said Grossmont College ASL student Chelsea Hogewoning.

Sheriff Dustin Pelloni guards law-breakers Photo by: Jenna Bouche
Sheriff Dustin Pelloni guards law-breakers
Photo by: Jenna Bouche

Signs posted on the doors outside the Griffin Center marked “No talking past this point” reinforced the purpose of the event: to educate about deaf culture. “It was really interesting, how people interact without sound…you really have to stop everything you’re doing because when you can hear, you can just listen and still do something else,” Hogewoning added. “I think that makes deaf people unique…because they pay attention to one thing instead of being distracted all of the time.” Sign-language sheriffs patrolled the event on the lookout for people breaking the no-talking rules. Perpetrators were sentenced to jail, where they signed to earn their release. Dustin Pelloni served as sheriff over the jail, smiling with the prisoners as they signed, while his fellow deputies continued scouring the area for other law-breakers.

Deaf Deaf World is an annual event inviting communities and institutions throughout the San Diego area to attend, including Mesa College, Cuyamaca College, City College, Southwestern College, SDSU, UCSD, USD, and other private colleges.