Student Initiates Program to Help Students Gain the Skills to Assist Deaf Clients
Web Editor - Published: April 29, 2011
Harrisburg student Chelsey Crocker took the initiative to start a Sign Language Society on the Harrisburg campus after her experience interning with the Bucks County District Attorney’s office during the summer of 2010.

“I had the chance to watch a few trials involving deaf defendants, says Chelsey. “To ensure that these defendants were afforded due process, the County hired numerous sign language interpreters,” but the attorneys themselves never really communicated with their clients.

“The inability of the attorneys to communicate with their clients prompted me to begin asking questions as to how I could change that at Widener,” says Chelsey, who got in touch with a sign language instructor with help from Professor Randy Lee, who now serves as the faculty advisor to the Sign Language Society.

“I became enamored with the whole process and decided that this would not only be a beneficial skill to enter the legal workforce with, but a skill that teaches us compassion for those who don’t have the luxury of being able to communicate with everyone,” she says, adding, “Through the help of the Student Bar Association, approval was granted to initiate a sign language class.”

Certifed sign language instructor and interpreter Jessica Marks agreed to teach a one-hour class for six weeks so that interested students could learn the fundamentals of sign language that would allow them to communicate at a very basic level with the deaf. Due to overwhelming interest, a Saturday class was added in order to afford evening division students the chance to participate.

Although taking on learning a new language would seem to be a task too demanding for a law student, the energy and enthusiasm generated by the opportunity is remarkable,” says Chelsey, concluding, “In hopes of both advancing our level of understanding and creating a unique skill exclusive to Widener Law students, we intend to be a society on campus that will be offered for years to come.”