SULPHUR —  It can be hard for most people to hold a conversation with someone in a noisy area. But for men and women with hearing impairments, how do you hold a conversation in a dark area? Staff and students at the Oklahoma School for the Deaf should soon have an easier time communicating with sign language thanks to lighting upgrades currently underway on campus.
Workers from Oklahoma Gas & Electric were installing more than 40 LED lights across the OSD campus on Tuesday. Superintendent Chris Dvorak said communication after dark was the main reason for the long awaited upgrade.
“If we can’t see, we can’t communicate,” Dvorak said. “Visual communication is our primary mode of communication here, and we’ve got to use ASL at night,” he said. ASL stands for American Sign Language and is used by hundreds of thousands of people across North America, mostly by people who are either deaf or have difficulty hearing, to communicate more easily.
Signs posted at every OSD entrance ask visitors to use ASL, and a tour of the campus on Tuesday afternoon was busy with students and staff using their hands and facial expressions to communicate with one another.
Aside from kindergarten through 12th grade classes, the campus also houses more than 100 students from all across Oklahoma in two dormitory buildings. As a result, a majority of students will often find themselves on campus after dark.
Maintenance and security supervisor Matt Neal said the school has been working with OG&E to address lighting issues on campus since he started working there in early 2017. “My very first phone call was about our lights,” Neal said.
Plans to upgrade outdoor lights on the OSD campus have been in the works for over two years, but school officials say that the lights had been on backorder until recently. Neal also said that he and OG&E had to make sure the new lights would address specific problem areas where lighting was difficult.
Dvorak said OG&E and school officials wanted to replace all lights at once with LEDs, rather than upgrading one-by-one as old lights burned out. “I think they recognized the need for visibility here more than anywhere, because communication depends so much on visibility on our campus,” Dvorak said.
Jack Meacham is an Alabama-based electrical engineer who has been designing LED lighting systems for over a decade. He said in an email on Wednesday that LED technology has multiple advantages over older light sources like metal halide or high pressure sodium bulbs.
“LED’s are manufactured to produce exactly the color temperature that is best for low vision levels,” Meacham said. “This allows your eye to see better under LED lights than under traditional lighting.”
Another benefit of LEDs is a lower power consumption. Beyond the smaller amount of electricity required to illuminate LEDs, older technology does not properly utilize all light produced. “These other sources also produce light in all directions, leading to inefficient use of light in places it is not required,” Meacham said.
With many industries making the move to LED lighting solutions, the staff at OSD did not seem focused on the financial aspects of the upgrades.
“Obviously they’re going to save us money,” Neal said. “The bigger thing for us was the visibility.”