Bo Clements, one of three American Sign Language (ASL) instructors at USF, gave a unique assignment to his students last weekend.
The Deaf Nation Expo took place in Tampa, and as an assignment Clements’ students were required to attend the free event and record their thoughts and experiences.
Clements, who is deaf himself, said he felt it is was an important experience for students to immerse themselves in the language whenever they get the chance.
Clements said he receives varying responses when he gives the Deaf Nation Expo assignment, which he assigns every two to three years, when the expo comes to town.
“Most of it is positive,” he said. “It is a learning experience that you can’t recreate in the class room.”
The Deaf Nation Expo was held at the Tampa Convention Center for the deaf community to promote their businesses.
Representatives of businesses and organizations lined the walls of the large room as well as a large stage at the back of the room for various performances. The Expo was packed with people of all ages, both hearing and deaf, including several USF students.
“It’s cool to see so much support for the deaf community,” Kim Woodman, a freshman majoring in interpreting, said. “I come from a small town so there wasn’t much of a deaf community.”
Tiffany Kohnen, a deaf and blind
volunteer at the event explained the
resources available to deaf and blind
individuals. At her information table, she said she came in contact with a lot of USF students from Clements’ class seeking
Janna Wells, a senior majoring in sociology and public health, took Clements’ ASL class to fulfill her foreign language requirement, but she enjoys the class very much and is happy she is taking it, she said.
“You’re not going to learn the deaf culture without going to an event,” Wells said. “(Clements) is the only deaf person I knew before this event.”
Clements said the experience was similar to studying a spoken language in its native country.
Jessica White, a sophomore majoring in nursing and minoring in interpreting, said she took sign language because “other people can learn a different language, but deaf people only have their language.”
Clements has been an ASL teacher at USF for almost 17 years, and said he still enjoys teaching the course because it is a great opportunity to use sign language. He can use his voice, but said it can sometimes be stressful.
Clements said his teaching is not affected by his being deaf. Instead, it helps him in his expertise of all aspects of sign language – from the facial expressions to deaf culture and history.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re hearing or not,” he said. “It’s the knowledge that counts.”
The club ASL Bulls will host an event on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Oval Theater in the Marshall Student Center. The club will debut its ASL film “Slot,” which was created by an all-deaf cast and crew. The event is open to everyone, and English subtitles will be provided for the ASL-impaired. Tickets are $11 at the door and all proceeds will benefit the organization.