‘Hands on Fire’ showcases American Sign Language

Sounds of the 90s filled the air as The Backstreet Boys “I Want It That Way” echoed through the room.

The audience sitting down hummed along, while people on stage danced to the beat.

It was all part of the annual event known as Hands on Fire and the performers on stage were deaf.

Hands on Fire is hosted by Butler University’s American Sign Language Club.

The event featured performances by Butler’s American Sign Language club, the Southport ASL Club and students from Indiana’s school for the Deaf.

Senior Lindsey Joo, Butler ASL Club president, said she felt the event was a huge success this year because it received such a great turn out from members of both the deaf and hearing communities.

Joo said she joined the ASL Club as a junior after taking ASL 3 and volunteering at the Indiana School for the Deaf.

She said she became interested in the language because it is so misunderstood.

“Compared to most spoken languages, American Sign Language has a very interesting history,” Joo said. “For a very long time, it was not even considered a language. Many universities did not offer ASL as a foreign language option until recently, and many more still don’t to this day.

“Even fewer people know or understand much about deaf culture, so that’s why working with ASL Club is important to me.”

This year, Hands on Fire ventured away from its usual skits and stories briefly to pay tribute to a fallen member of the deaf community, Bob Canty.

Glenn Carlstrand, friend and colleague of Canty, spoke at the event to honor his friend, who attended the event just last year.

Carlstrand said Canty’s greatest passion was working with deaf students and talking with hearing students studying ASL about their progression with the language.

“[Canty] was the kindest and nicest man. He was a great story teller, that was really his love. He just loved telling stories,” Carlstrand said.

Dave Calvert, another friend of Canty, performed an interpretive dance to the song “Love in Any Language,” by Sandi Patty.

Joo said she was truly pleased with all of the stories shared and with all of the performances that took place.

She said she believes Hands on Fire gets better every single year .

“I think, at the very simplest level, people should treat deaf culture like they do any other culture,” Joo said. “They should learn about it and, at the very minimum, respect it. “

Butler’s ASL Club is open to people of all signing levels and all meetings are easily understood by people who may not be familiar with signing, Joo said.

“Our goal is to spread awareness of American Sign Language and deaf culture on campus,” Joo said.


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