American Sign Language (ASL) is used by about a half of million people across the United States. Despite there being over 23,000 public high schools in the U.S, only 1,000 of these schools offer an ASL class. 

Fairfield University does not offer ASL classes within its Languages Department, but there is a student-run club on campus dedicated to teaching the language, as well as deaf culture. 

Basic ASL is a very important and useful skill to have. Anyone, no matter [what] location or career path, has the possibility of running into members of the deaf community. Simply knowing some ASL shows [that] you have put effort into being able to communicate with that community. 

President of ASL Club Grace Magilligan ’24

Fairfield’s ASL Club is led by Senior Grace Magilligan, as well as Alyssa Suarez ‘25 as Vice President, Jamie Tulpan ‘24 as Treasurer, Mary Rado ‘26 as Social Media Chair, Nora Crowley ‘26 as Secretary and Kelly De Bow ‘26 as COSO Representative.

“This club was started [during] my freshman year by a sophomore at the time who knew ASL because she had a deaf family member. The last two years, I have been on the executive board,” President Magilligan shared. “All of the other executive board members graduated last May, [and] I decided to take over the club as President so it could continue to run,” she explained. 

Magilligan noted that, while she is not advanced at ASL, her lack of experience makes leading the club more enjoyable as she gets to learn with the rest of the members. 

When asked if the club was beginner friendly, Magilligan answered, “It is very much for beginners. It is a safe space to learn as a group because we are all beginners. Most people don’t know any ASL when they join.”

Despite staggering numbers of deaf individuals in the United States, many people do not learn ASL. 

I don’t understand why Fairfield does not offer any ASL classes. It’s a language the same way [that] Spanish or French is—just because it isn’t verbalized does not make it any less deserving of a class here.

Social Media Chair of ASL Club Mary Rado ‘26

Magilligan added, “Basic ASL is a very important and useful skill to have. Anyone, no matter [what] location or career path, has the possibility of running into members of the deaf community. Simply knowing some ASL shows [that] you have put effort into being able to communicate with that community.” 

“We also learn about deaf and Deaf culture (there is a difference between lower case deaf and upper case Deaf) so people are more familiar with these communities,” Magilligan remarked. “It is also really fun to learn!”

According to Deaf Health Charity, deaf with a lowercase ‘d’ represents the physical condition of having hearing loss, whereas Deaf with a capital ‘D’ refers to individuals who have been Deaf before they learned to talk. 

Fairfield offers courses for the following languages: Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. 

Rado stated, “I don’t understand why Fairfield does not offer any ASL classes. It’s a language the same way [that] Spanish or French is— just because it isn’t verbalized does not make it any less deserving of a class here.”

The ASL club meets once a month in the Egan School, and they communicate with members through a GroupMe. 

“Right now we’re working on creating Instagram bingo graphics to raise money for the Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf, so keep an eye out!” Rado emphasized. 

Author

By Liz Morin

English (Creative Writing) and Digital Journalism || Politics Minor

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