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October 1, 2010 > Ohlone College opens new Deaf Studies Lab

Ohlone College opens new Deaf Studies Lab

Submitted By Patrice Birkedahl
Photos By Rod Searcey

A state-of-the-art computer lab and classroom for the Deaf Studies Division at Ohlone College officially opened its doors on Monday, September 20.

Ohlone operates one of the largest and most highly respected Deaf Studies programs of any community college in the U.S., with almost 200 Deaf students and an additional 600 American Sign Language (ASL) students.

"Few colleges outside of Gallaudet University have anything to rival the facility we are opening to serve our Deaf student population and ASL students," said Dr. Jim Wright, Vice President of Instruction at Ohlone.

The facility features 42 computer stations and an adjoining classroom, each with the latest teaching and learning technology available. The computers are equipped with various software packages that allow students to work with video and graphics to create and use projects that improve language and communication skills.

"The facility provides a crucial opportunity for the Deaf and ASL students to engage in intensive language interaction, contributing to academic language development and social change for all the students in the Deaf Studies Division," said Dr. Genie Gertz, Dean of the Division.

The College has highly qualified staff, excellent interpreting and support services, and a variety of programs, including college-level transfer, personal enrichment, and vocational training. The faculty and administration at Ohlone's Deaf Studies Division are nationally and internationally recognized educators who excel in the field of linguistics and deaf culture.

"Here at Ohlone we have one of the largest and most comprehensive ASL/Deaf Studies programs in the West. Our program is focused on meeting the academic needs of Deaf students in post-secondary settings. This lab facility brings a perfect opportunity for Deaf and ASL students to in engage in intensive language interaction. In turn this supports academic language development and social change for all students," adds Dr. Gertz.

The grand opening event falls in the middle of National Deaf Awareness month designated by the National Association of the Deaf. The opening of the Lab also marks the beginning of the International Week of the Deaf which is held the last full week of September.

The lab was funded by a $200,000 grant from the East Bay Community Foundation through the estate of Evelyn Henderson, a former teacher of deaf students at the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley, before it moved to Fremont in 1980.

"Evelyn Henderson wanted her bequest to assist the post-secondary education of Deaf students," said Nicole Taylor, President and Chief Executive Officer of the East Bay Community Foundation. "Because of our knowledge of and familiarity with programs and organizations in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, Ohlone College was promptly chosen as the recipient that could best utilize this grant to benefit the Deaf community." Taylor noted that in addition to fulfilling the legacy of the late Evelyn Henderson, the grant also is consistent with the foundation's focus on education to advance economic opportunity for East Bay populations in need.

The Ohlone College Deaf Studies Division is proud to have one of the largest and most comprehensive programs in the West designed to meet the academic and vocational needs of Deaf and Hard-of- Hearing students. Our primary purpose is to provide an opportunity for all individuals to gain maximum benefit from their educational experience.

The East Bay Community Foundation ( formed in 1928, is a leading resource on charitable giving and community needs, stewarding more than 500 charitable funds and endowments.

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