In 1950, Sam Roach, a Harding student who was partially deaf, founded the American Sign Language (ASL) club. Roach began the ASL club to help hearing students learn how to better communicate with the deaf community, and this club still exists today, 70 years later.
Senior Matthew Emlaw, co-president of the club, said part of the reason he chose to join the club was because his brother, who was already a member, invited him to a meeting. He said he really enjoyed the experience of being able to practice the language and learn new signs. Emlaw also said the purpose of the club was to help students become more comfortable with the language and the deaf community while also building relationships with each other.
“The purpose of the club is to help students practice and get more experience with sign language and the deaf community, while also building relationships with each other,” Emlaw said.
Sophomore Morgan Haught, the activities director of the club, said she helps organize club events throughout the year to help them become better at signing, as well as connect with some of the deaf community in Arkansas.
“We normally have at least one trip to the Arkansas School for the Deaf, [and] possibly go watch a football game or a basketball game,” Haught said. “We normally have two to three trips [to] Sylvan Hills, which is a church that has a deaf community.”
Haught said one of the purposes of the club is to encourage students to learn more about sign language so they have more people who are willing to think about and communicate with the deaf community around them.
Sophomore Elizabeth Dillard, an officer for the ASL club, said it gives you the opportunity to learn something new while also giving you people who can support you in your learning journey.
“It gives you a new skill with no pressure to be an expert in a day, as well as a family to support you in your journey,” Dillard said.
Emlaw said the club is for anyone willing to learn more about the deaf community and sign language.
“You don’t have to have any ASL background to join,” Emlaw said. “I know a lot of times people will see people signing in the Stu and be intimidated and afraid … but it’s for everybody — any skill level — whether you’ve been signing for the past five years or you’ve never signed before and are just interested — it’s for everybody.”
The club meets every Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in the Swaid Center for Health Sciences in room 233.