The following article was contributed by Wilton High School senior Julia Clark. She is the president of the WHS American Sign Language Honor Society.
Wilton High School’s level three course of American Sign Language recently paid a visit to Wilton’s emergency responders to teach them the importance of accommodating deaf citizens. Wilton’s ASL course has consistently been trailblazing for Deaf representation in Fairfield County. Not only is instructor Amy Broderick dedicated to teaching the language, but the culture and advocacy that accompany it.
Following the conclusion of a unit focused on emergency signs, Madison Locher — WHS student and daughter of Wilton Fire Capt. Jeff Locher — proposed the idea of reaching out to the town’s emergency responders.
“I always knew ever since I started learning ASL I wanted to make an impact on people’s lives using this language,” Madison Locher said. “The idea was to teach ASL to those who know our community inside and out — our first responders.” Broderick supported the idea and was determined to bring it to fruition.
The trip was in collaboration with WHS’s chapter of the American Sign Language Honor Society — an extension of the program dedicated to service outreach. In the weeks prior to the outreach project, students focused on diligent classroom planning and club meetings.
“Coordinating this type of event comes with a lot of organization, leadership, and communication skills.” Madison Locher explained. “Teaching a misunderstood language to a roomful of adults proved to be exciting, yet challenging.”
The event took place at Wilton Fire Headquarters, where the students met with a room filled with a variety of emergency responders and town employees. The lesson began with a short lecture on the importance of learning ASL, a Q&A, mini-group lessons from the students, and a jeopardy-style game to test their knowledge.
According to Capt. Locher, the town’s emergency responders have displayed a noticeable knowledge of the language and Deaf culture following the lesson. “The training greatly improved our ability to communicate with deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals,”
Broderick expressed pride in the passion displayed by her students. “This was a truly amazing experience,” she said. “Everyone involved, deaf and hearing students, first responders and town employees contributed and learned from each other.”
The students and responders shared a mutual understanding of the importance of Deaf education. “From an emergency responders’ perspective, it addressed a critical aspect of our job, being able to quickly and accurately communicate with all segments of the population,” Capt. Locher said. “It proved to be a successful and gratifying experience in teaching the first responders. It created a new path for a different way for us to communicate with both the deaf and hearing community.”
With a common goal of improving the accessibility and safety of the community, both the students and emergency responders alike considered this mission successful. The students left the responders with resources for future use, as well as a newfound passion for accommodating an often overlooked subset of the community.
Broderick said that she, as well as her students, “look forward to continuing the collaboration between the deaf community and the Wilton community for many more years.”
Hey Guys, Well done – what a great idea – keep up the good work!
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