Advancing Accessibility: Sea School Takes Intro Course in American Sign Language

provided to The Santiva Chronicle

Sign for dolphin

Sanibel Sea School staff had the opportunity to meet with representatives from The Deaf & Hard of Hearing Center (DHHC) of Fort Myers for an American Sign Language “Lunch and Learn” in May. Its mission is to empower Southwest Florida’s deaf and hard of hearing citizens and their families through education, advocacy, and community involvement. During the class, Sanibel Sea School staff learned about federal ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) laws and deaf culture and discussed ways we can make our programs more accessible to the deaf community.

The lunch also came with an introductory lesson in American Sign Language (ASL). The lesson started off with the ASL alphabet followed by common phrases, and finally sea creatures! The lesson was tailored toward Sanibel Sea School’s needs, so the staff sent DHHC words and phrases that marine science educators often use during their courses. The staff also learned signs for Sanibel Sea School’s “one rule and three goals”: be kind, stay safe, have fun, and learn something. By the end of the session, staff were signing their names and having basic conversations.

Sanibel Sea School Marine Science Educator Brianna Machuga studied ASL during her time at Kent State University in Ohio and immersed herself in the region’s deaf community. “The luncheon was so much fun. It was great to get a chance to brush up on my signs and even learn a few new ones,” Machuga enthused. “I think it was a wonderful opportunity for all of us to learn more about the deaf community and how to communicate in American Sign Language so that we can be prepared when the need arises.”

Sign for octopus

Sanibel Sea School’s mission is to improve the ocean’s future one person at a time. With the combined experience of this luncheon and Machuga’s skills in ASL, Sanibel Sea School hopes to extend its reach and introduce even more students to the wonders of the ocean.

If you or someone you know would like to schedule a class for a student who communicates through ASL, please call 239-472-8585 or email sanibelseaschool@sccf.org to sign up for a course with Brianna Machuga. She is conversational in ASL but is not a licensed interpreter.

If you’re interested in setting up a luncheon for your business or organization, visit DHHC’s website to learn more: https://dhhc.life/community-education.

Part of the SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation) Family, Sanibel Sea School’s mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time.

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