URBANA — The University of Illinois Quad will be a slightly quieter place for 24 hours starting this evening.
The chimes that normally ring from Altgeld Hall’s tower will be silenced from 5 p.m. today through 5 p.m. Wednesday in honor of Silent Day, part of the International Week of the Deaf.
Several dozen faculty and students have taken a pledge not to use their voices from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, to raise awareness about communications barriers faced by those with hearing impairments, said Matthew Dye, UI professor of speech and hearing science.
Altgeld Chimesmaster Sue Wood readily agreed to withhold playing the usual “Hail to the Orange” and other favorites in honor of the event.
Wood is known for playing songs to observe specific holidays — “My Funny Valentine” on Feb. 14, Irish tunes on St. Patrick’s Day, military hymns on patriotic holidays, and various national anthems on other countries’ independence days.
And once a year or so, she gets a request to silence the chimes to promote a certain cause.
“This seemed even more appropriate, especially given the way he was going to help his students carry it out,” Wood said Monday.
Dye said this is the first time the campus has planned events for the international observance, billed as a week of advocacy by the World Federation of the Deaf.
On Monday, several speakers addressed the impact of legal and technological innovations on deaf people, led by John Miller, director of the Illinois Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Commission appointed by the governor.
The documentary “See What I’m Saying,” about four deaf entertainers, will be shown from 6 to 8 p.m. today at the Digital Computer Lab. Admission is $5. The movie features the efforts of a drummer, singer, comedian and actor to bring their art to mainstream audiences.
On Saturday, at the Illinois-Penn State football game, 25 children from the Illinois School for the Deaf will perform the National Anthem in American Sign Language alongside the Marching Illini.
On Wednesday, Silent Day, all students and staff members are encouraged not to use their voice and to think about the challenges faced by those who are deaf. Deafness is a “hidden disability,” Dye said, and store clerks and others often don’t realize when a customer cannot hear.
“When you look at someone, you don’t know if they can hear or not. When we beep the horn on our car, we presume they can hear us, but they can’t. You can talk to someone, and it looks like they are ignoring you,” he said.
Many alternative means of communication are available, including gestures, email and text-messaging, he said.
The week’s events were organized by Dye and two American Sign Language instructors who teach at the UI, Susan Dramin-Weiss and Donald Haring. They received support from the Department of Speech and Hearing Science, the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics and the College of Fine and Applied Arts.
“Next year, we hope to get the word out sooner,” Dye said.