News at Princeton

Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016
American Sign Language at Princeton Colin Lualdi

Junior Colin Lualdi, a physics major, is Princeton's only Deaf student. He has been instrumental in establishing classes, clubs and other opportunities for learning American Sign Language on campus.

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Video feature: American Sign Language at Princeton

Through the advocacy of junior Colin Lualdi and other students, Princeton now has a vibrant community of American Sign Language learners. (Video by Nick Barberio, Office of Communications)

Junior Colin Lualdi is a physics major at Princeton University, and he is Deaf.

Lualdi capitalizes the "D" in Deaf as a way of embracing the Deaf community, and he has welcomed his role as Princeton's only Deaf student. By teaching sign language to his fellow students, establishing an American Sign Language (ASL) club and language table, and advocating for ASL-related classes in the curriculum, he has connected a community of people interested in ASL on campus.

In Lualdi's first semester, he founded the Princeton University American Sign Language Club, which holds events, advocates for credit and non-credit ASL instruction on campus, and connects with Deaf and hard-of-hearing students and alumni. In the Whitman College dining hall, students have organized a weekly ASL table, where they can practice signing over dinner.

This fall semester, the University's linguistics program offered the course "Linguistics of American Sign Language" for the first time. The course was taught by Eileen Forestal, a lecturer in the Council of Humanities and the Program in Linguistics who is also Deaf. As the class is made up of students who are not fluent in sign language (except for Lualdi), the Office of Disability Services provided sign language interpreters. (The office also arranges interpreters for Lualdi's classes and other activities.)

"I'm looking at the students as ambassadors for the Deaf community," Forestal said. "ASL is a language, and they can help to promote that concept."

Some students interested in ASL have family members or friends who are Deaf, and others want to learn it just like they would learn any other language.

"I think learning ASL at Princeton is completely independent of how many Deaf students there are at Princeton," said senior Briana Freeman, a member and former officer of the ASL club. "I'm not learning Japanese and Korean to talk to fellow students here necessarily, though that is fun and … a great way to learn more."

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