Sign-language university grants degrees to the deaf

Updated 29 January 2014

Sign-language university grants degrees to the deaf

The lecturer is standing in front of his class and expansively gesticulating. With both hands, he is carving out gestures in thin air. A small group of students sitting in a semi-circle watch him and one another closely.
Nearly every student at the Gallaudet University in Washington DC is deaf or has impaired hearing. Classroom instruction is conducted by means of the American Sign Language (ASL). Without visual contact to the others, communication is difficult. “Most people here know American Sign Language, so everyday conversation is a lot easier,” comments Christian Vogler. Although he has never been able to hear, the 40-year-old speaks clearly understandable German and English. The IT specialist hails from Germany. In Washington he heads Gallaudet’s Technology Access Program, a department that provides cutting-edge technology such as videophones to aid the students.
During his studies in Germany, he had to rely on reading the literature and other students’ lecture notes.
“I did have sign language interpreters for some of my classes there. But I had to look for them myself and there weren’t enough interpreters available so I had to rely on a mix of interpretation, reading, note taking and talking to fellow students,” Vogler said.
At Gallaudet University, by contrast, the complete curriculum is geared to the deaf and hearing-impaired. The university describes its program as being “unique” worldwide. US President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill in 1864 that authorized the former school to issue university-level degrees.
About 1,800 students are enrolled at the university, a bare 15 minutes’ drive from the White House.
Keith Doane is on course to complete his political science and philosophy studies next May. The 27-year-old has done his entire studies at Gallaudet. He coolly leans back in his chair while he communicates in sign language with his two hands.
Some signs resemble a fist, others show fingers rubbing against each other, yet others involve the entire hand moving in a certain direction.
A female sign-language interpreter translates his words out loud: “Some of my friends say that I am too deaf,” says Keith with a smile.
He spent his early school years with other hearing-impaired or deaf pupils. His parents also cannot hear.
“You do get accustomed to the convenience of being here in an environment where everyone is deaf. It eases your communication with your friends and your community,” he says through the intepreter.
What worries him now is the period after he graduates, when he will possibly be working with people who are able to hear.
“It is not impossible. It just takes a little time,” Keith adds. “I want to help people around the world. “Once I’ve finished graduate school in a couple of years I want to set up an NGO (a non-government organization or charity) and see if I can use that to help people around the world.


Orange is the new grey for Bangladesh beards

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on January 24, 2019 shows men with henna-dyed beards in Dhaka on December 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 1 min 52 sec ago

Orange is the new grey for Bangladesh beards

  • It is now virtually impossible to walk down a street in a Bangladesh city without seeing a colored beard

DHAKA, BANGLADESH: From shades of startling red to hues of vivid tangerine, brightly colored beards have become a fashion statement on the streets of Bangladesh capital Dhaka.
Facial hair of sunset tones is now the go-to look for older men wanting to take off the years, with an array of henna options available to the style-conscious.
“I have been using it on my hair for the last two months. I like it,” says Mahbubul Bashar, in his 50s, whose smile reflected his joy at his new look.
Abul Mia, a 60-year-old porter at a local vegetable market, agrees that the vibrant coloring can be transformative.
“I love it. My family says I look a lot younger and handsome,” he adds.
While henna has been used widely in the country for decades, it has reached new heights of popularity. It is now virtually impossible to walk down a street in a Bangladesh city without seeing a colored beard.
Orange hair — whether it’s beards, moustaches or on heads — is everywhere, thanks to the popularity of the colored dye produced by the flowering henna plant.
“Putting henna on has become a fashion choice in recent years for elder men,” confirms Didarul Dipu, head fashion journalist at Canvas magazine.
“The powder is easily found in neighborhood stores and easy to put on,” he adds.
But the quest for youth is not the only reason why more and more Dhaka barbers are adding beard and hair coloring to their services.
Top imams also increasingly use henna powder color in what experts say is a move to prove their Muslim credentials as some religious texts say the prophet Mohammed dyed his hair.
In Bangladesh most of the population of 168 million is Muslim.
“I heard from clerics that the prophet Mohammed used henna on his beard. I am just following,” says Dhaka resident Abu Taher.

Henna has long been a tradition at South Asian weddings. Brides and grooms use henna paste to trace intricate patterns on their hands for wedding parties.
It has also long been used in Muslim communities in Asia and the Middle East for beards.
Previously, aficionados created the dye by crushing henna leaves to form a paste. It was messy and time-consuming but modern henna powder is far more user-friendly.
Taher, who goes by one name, believes the dye has given his beard added vigour.
“Look at this growth. Isn’t it strong?” he exclaims pointing to his chin.
“The powder turns the grey hair red but does not change the remaining black hair,” he explains.
Some believe henna powder has health benefits and, as it is natural rather than created using man-made chemicals like some dyes, does not cause any medical issues.
The new trend has also boosted barbers’ fortunes — more men feel compelled to dye their hair and to do it more often at the salons.
“In the past we hardly would get any customers for this,” recalls Shuvo Das, who works at the Mahin Hairdressers in Dhaka’s Shaheenbagh neighborhood.
“But now there are clients who come every week to get their beard dyed,” he says.
“It takes about 40 minutes to make the beard reddish and shiny. It is also cheap. A pack cost only 15 taka (four US cents),” Das explains as he massages the dye mixture — imported from India — into a customer’s beard.
According to Dhaka University sociology professor Monirul Islam Khan, the growing number of henna beards “is a sign of increasing Muslim fervor in Bangladeshi society.”
But, he adds, even those who are not strict followers do it.
He explains: “They want to look younger. Even the women are getting fond of it as it makes their hair glitter.”