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.


Taj Mahal damaged in deadly India thunderstorm

Updated 31 May 2020

Taj Mahal damaged in deadly India thunderstorm

  • India’s top tourist attraction has been shut since mid-March as part of measures to try and combat the coronavirus pandemic

AGRA, India: A deadly thunderstorm that rolled across parts of northern India damaged sections of the Taj Mahal complex, including the main gate and a railing running below its five lofty domes, officials said Sunday.
One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, India’s top tourist attraction has been shut since mid-March as part of measures to try and combat the coronavirus pandemic.
AFP images showed workers assessing the railing of the main mausoleum, after the storm on Friday night battered Agra city in northern Uttar Pradesh state.
“One sandstone railing which was a part of the original structure has been damaged,” Superintending Archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India, Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, said.
“One marble railing which was a later addition, a false ceiling in the tourist holding area and the base stone of the main gate has also been damaged.”
He added there was no damage to the main structure of the monument to love — built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth in 1631.
Local media reports said thunderstorms and lightning on Friday killed at least 13 people in two Uttar Pradesh districts.
Fatal lightning strikes are relatively common during the June-October monsoon season.
Last year, at least 150 people were killed by lightning in August and September in Madhya Pradesh state in central India.