Deaf Studies (BA)

The Deaf Studies bachelor’s degree program at Columbia College Chicago—the only Deaf Studies program in the Midwest—combines insight into the cultural aspects of the Deaf community, rigorous instruction in American Sign Language, and exposure to performance and visual art in Columbia’s creative environment. You’ll graduate with connections in the Deaf community in Chicago and beyond, prepared to serve as a Deaf Studies specialist and advocate for the community.

In addition to being part of one of the most unique communities at Columbia, you’ll take core curriculum classes to gain a well-rounded education that prepares you for work in a variety of fields, from community-based services, educational settings, performance and visual arts, government organizations, and more. And you’ll have the opportunity to pursue creative endeavors of your choice.

deaf studies presentationPhoto Credit: Mark McWilliams

In the Classroom

The Deaf Studies program at Columbia College Chicago is designed to start with ASL 1. However, if you have previous ASL experience—whether you’re a freshman or a transfer student—you will take a placement test to determine the ASL skills class you’ll be placed in. You’ll attend a weekly ASL Lab to focus on receptive and expressive ASL skills and learn about the principles of classifiers, an integral part of the language. You’ll take a course in Deaf culture—a requirement for all ASL students—and a course about career opportunities within the Deaf community. You’ll also have the opportunity to choose electives in your areas of interest, including classses like Creativity in ASL, which encourages you to create stories, poems, and theatrical materials in American Sign Language.

Your last year will wrap up with a capstone, a semester-long research project on a topic of your choice related to the Deaf community. The project culminates in a presentation at Manifest, the college’s annual showcase of Columbia student work.



As a Deaf Studies student at Columbia College Chicago, you’re guaranteed an internship. These unpaid, for-credit internships are arranged by the ASL Department through our numerous community connections.

During these guided, immersive work experiences, you’ll complete 90 hours of volunteer service to members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community with an organization that provides services to or works in collaboration with Chicago’s Deaf and ASL communities. Your options range from managing artistic and performance events to working within community organizations to teach clients life management skills.


Our faculty includes internationally known Deaf storytellers and artists, professional interpreters, and published linguists. Our faculty members elevate the reputation of Columbia College Chicago’s ASL Department as a destination for and advocate of Chicago’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

View all department faculty


From day one, you’ll be part of Columbia’s unique Deaf community, one that belongs to the broader Deaf community and contributes to the creative accomplishments that make the college what it is. Students can practice their language skills by: 

  • Joining the ASL Club, a nationally recognized group of dedicated ASL students who are active within the Deaf community.
  • Participating in Deaf events in Chicago, such as ASL-only coffee hours, ASL interpreted theatre events, and ASL improv nights.
  • Volunteering for Deaf community-based projects.

ASL Studies Minor

The ASL Studies minor will give you the opportunity to learn American Sign Language and broaden your understanding of Deaf culture and the resources available to the Deaf community. It will also teach you invaluable, transferrable skills as you prepare for a career in the profession of your choice. 

Complementary Minors for the Deaf Studies BA Program