Communicating an order is key to getting the meal you actually want from a restaurant. However, for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing this can be impossible to understand, which is where sign language helps, but a fraction of the population knows it.

Students are hosting a dinner to raise awareness for American Sign Language (ASL) and the local deaf and hard-of-hearing community Monday, April 27 in the Numen Lumen Pavilion. The dinner benefits the Communication Services for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (CSDHH) in Greensboro.

“This is a unique event,” sophomore Elizabeth Zimmerman said. “We are having a taco dinner and the wait staff are trained, certified sign language interpreters and we will have menus that have translations with the signs.”

Students came up with the event for SEM 427, a practical course within the Sports and Event Management major that allows students to apply the principles they learned in earlier classes to planning their own events.

The SEM 427 course, as a practical service-learning class, requires students to create, promote and manage an original event that will benefit a local community. Students must select an event and then plan, organize and execute it, Sport and Event Management department chair Hal Walker said.

“In SEM, we stress the importance of transferable skills, and there is no better way to learn these skills than by running a live event,” Walker said. “Planning, organizing, staffing, directing, organizing, leading, budgeting are all critical skills necessary for success in the real world. Students take ownership for each of these aspects, and they always learn a great deal about themselves and others.”

The idea of a sign language restaurant was first proposed by a student who was also taking an ASL course. As a whole, the class was interested in pursuing this unique and fun concept and raising awareness of a local organization.

“The event was inspired by a restaurant in Toronto called Signs,” freshman Lauren Miscovsky said. “This restaurant hires only deaf waitresses and waiters, which encourages the hearing world to be exposed and to use American Sign Language and menus are created so each item is shown with its corresponding sign in ASL.”

The “Event Management” students thought it would be an engaging challenge to bring a restaurant like Signs to Elon. When deciding on the event, the class thought recreating the signing concept was a different way to bring awareness of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community to the Elon campus. They decided on a taco bar where patrons would be able to say exactly what toppings they wanted using sign language they learned from images on the menu.

“We decided on serving tacos so people can learn multiple different types of signs for all of the toppings that come with a taco,” Miscovsky said. “I am extremely excited for the event and I think it will be a great success.”

Along with organizing the event, students also needed to find a specific organization to support. To keep the awareness local, they decided on CSDHH.

“CSDHH focuses on giving deaf people in the central North Carolina area resources they need to succeed in a hearing-based world.” Zimmerman said. “Our goal is to raise funds and awareness to things they and we are passionate about. We wanted to stay local, to show that the Elon community cares about the people in the surrounding areas.”

The event serves as a way for both the students to organize an event on their own and for the community to learn more about the CSDHH and deaf and ASL culture.

“By putting on this event, we hope to raise awareness for the sign language community and the cause, but also to raise funds,” Zimmerman said. “Our goal is to put on a professional event at the end of the day and that we can be proud to have made a difference.”


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