No Words Required among Sign Language Club Community Members

Communication is silent, but a multitude of conversations happen simultaneously from table to table.

Communication comes in many forms, but the Sign Language Club takes a different approach. Founded in 2014 as part of the campus sign language interpreting program, the club offers a place for sign language speakers both hearing and deaf to meet on common interpretive ground.

The club is led by the recently elected President Becca Davis. It has 45 paid members, including UA Little Rock graduates who still attend off-campus events. Davis said that inclusion and involvement are some of the club’s key traits to make its members feel welcome.

“We’re working on getting involved on campus,” said Davis. “Most people don’t know we exist until we run into ASL classes and say ‘hey, by the way, this is a thing you can go to.’”

In addition to holding regular meetings, the club participates in a number of off-campus activities to promote deaf culture. For example, they regularly participate in the Arkansas School for the Deaf spring carnival as volunteer interpreters.

“It’s for the community, not just deaf people. There are a lot of hearing people that show up as well,” said Davis.

The events that attract the most participants from both within and outside the club are the monthly silent dinners– a series of evenings at restaurants where chatter among customers is replaced entirely with sign language. Members are encouraged to bring their family and friends to learn about ASL and deaf culture in the process.

“At the first silent dinner that I went to, I made new friends,” said club member Will Retford. “From there, I helped other people join the SLK group.”

For Retford, the Sign Language Club is more than just a student organization.

“Even though we have our own lives and we’re all different people, we can still meet up as interpreting majors and people interested in ASL and learn, communicate, and meet new people in the deaf and hard of hearing community,” said Retford.

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