Ashley Loomis can’t dunk or shoot 3-pointers, but she’ll be signing with the Orlando Magic this season.
Loomis is one of 35 UCF students who will sign the national anthem for deaf and hard-of-hearing fans before all Magic home games, including the preseason and playoffs.
“I think it is great to be part of something that will expose others to sign language and the deaf community,” said Loomis, who has been deaf since birth. “It demonstrates the heart behind the Magic team to reach out to and connect with deaf and hearing individuals.”
Loomis, a Health Sciences major with a minor in Deaf Studies, is a huge Magic fan. In addition to signing the U.S. national anthem, she will be signing the Canadian national anthem when the Toronto Raptors visit the Magic in November.
The UCF students will work in teams to sign the national anthem. One student will sign next to the singer. He or she will take cues from a second student acting as a feeder from the sidelines. Because some of the student signers are deaf or hard of hearing, the role of the feeder is to give the signers cues to follow.
“One of the biggest challenges a deaf individual faces is separation from the general community due to the language and communication barriers,” Loomis said. “Being a part of these events helps me feel more connected to my community.”
Jason Hurdich, an American Sign Language instructor at UCF, said few NBA teams provide signing for all of their games. He said it’s special that the Magic are “taking accessibility a step further than what other teams have done.”
UCF offers ASL within the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. UCF sought the partnership with the Magic to assist fans and give students studying the third-most-used language in the United States invaluable opportunities to practice. It was an easy sell.
“We are extremely happy to be partnering with the UCF’s American Sign Language program in order to serve all Orlando Magic fans and create a legendary experience,” said Shelly Driggers, director of Arena & Event Presentations for the Orlando Magic.