HFC ASL program grows, plans associate degree

HFC ASL program grows, plans associate degree

Release Date: Monday, February 5, 2018
ASL signer's hands while signing

The Henry Ford College (HFC) American Sign Language (ASL) program continues to grow. For the Winter 2018 semester, HFC is offering six classes (13 sections) in the ASL curriculum, six times as many as the program’s inception in 2015.

The Deaf Studies Certificate (DSC) went into effect the Fall 2016 semester. An Associate Degree of Applied Science in ASL Interpreting is expected to launch at HFC in time for the Fall 2018 semester.

The DSC provides an understanding of Deaf Culture and ASL, ensuring that students reach an intermediate level of competency in ASL skills. ASL courses are aligned with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) proficiency standards. The goal for students is to become intermediate mid-speakers on the ACTFL scale.

Intermediate Mid-Speaker

According to the ACTFL, an intermediate mid-speaker is able to successfully handle uncomplicated communicative tasks in straightforward social situations, such as the exchange of information relating to the self, and physical and social needs. In addition to responding to direct questions, mid-speakers are also able to ask a variety of simple questions. In turn, intermediate mid-listeners are able to accurately comprehend simple exchanges of sentence-length speech relating to familiar or predictable topics.

“The DSC is for people who want to learn ASL but do not necessarily want to become ASL interpreters,” said HFC ASL instructor Jennifer Stewart. “Knowing ASL comes in handy for educators, social workers, lawyers, nurses, other members of the medical community, and the law enforcement community.” Some mid-speakers may wish to go on to higher learning in ASL, and the upcoming HFC associate degree program will allow them to do so.

Stewart, who has taught at HFC for three years, played an integral role in the creation of the associate degree program. A Child of a Deaf Adult (CODA), Stewart earned her associate degree in ASL Interpretation for the Deaf and a DSC from Sinclair Community College (SCC) in Dayton, OH. She earned her undergraduate degree in ASL Interpretation for the Deaf from Siena Heights University (SHU), and her graduate degree in Special Education and a Teaching Certificate for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

ASL Club

In the Fall 2016 semester, HFC’s ASL Club was founded. Its purpose is to create a forum for students who share a common interest in learning, participating, and cultivating sign language with those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Members converse in sign language, and the ASL Club provides a place to practice sign language skills and socialize with members of the deaf community.

Nicola Artese, an HFC ASL instructor who is deaf, runs the HFC ASL Club.

“Nic’s input and expertise is so invaluable to our program,” said Stewart. “He provides us with a deaf perspective that is imperative in making this program here at HFC successful. Without him and our other deaf colleagues, our ASL program would not be a success.”

Demand for ASL Interpreters

According to Stewart, there is a critical shortage of ASL interpreters. Experts anticipate a 31 percent job growth from now until 2024 for interpreters. The median hourly wage for ASL interpreters in southeast Michigan is currently $20.59. That could grow as the demand for ASL interpreters increases.

“Very few schools in the area have ASL programs,” said Stewart. “It’s a very hands-on program. Learning ASL is a very important skill set. You are helping people communicate and making their voices – so to speak – be heard. That’s essential to bridging the communication gap right here in Michigan.”

To apply for classes at HFC, go to hfcc.edu/steps/apply. For questions or further information, contact Lori Slaber of the HFC World Languages faculty at 313-845-6499 or lslaber@hfcc.edu or visit hfcc.edu/academics/programs/american-sign-language.