ASL hall sign

ASL hall sign (Photo credit: swenda)

This morning I read the article by Blogger Bitco David on Deaf In Prison  titled No Child Left Signing and the site Deaf Insight Blogger: Monica Hood titled Keep ASL in School Campaign. The two articles addressed great information along with the importance of keeping ASL in schools for a number of reasons. The value of ASL to both the hearing and deaf youth, the importance of students having language options and the awareness that having an ASL program in schools offers hearing and deaf youth.

In a discussion, I had a while ago with another ASL/Deaf educator she mentioned that sometimes hearing ASL students know more about the deaf community and language than deaf students. Which made sense to me, I don’t remember receiving in-depth lessons at home or school about my culture, language or history. To learn more I researched on my own and learned new information in college by taking certain classes. Deaf youth should have the same option as hearing youth when taking ASL or deaf culture courses. They need to understand the importance of their history, language and culture along with other experiences to  develop a positive self-identity. As well as deaf youth need to see how much their language is valued and appreciated that hearing students all over are passionate about learning it and making a difference in the community. This would also encourage deaf youth to get involved to make a difference as their parents and ancestors have to fight for equality and access.

For hearing students ASL is a great option, not only for foreign language requirements and it is different from Spanish but ASL opens doors to so much more. Students can get involved in the community and make a difference by advocating, educating and promoting an awareness of  ASL and the community. This can be accomplished as early as the first course they take and continued through higher education. Once students connect with this mission it can be carried over into employment especially in places where the door has been closed to the deaf community due to discrimination. They can bring to light the needs of the deaf community and how they can be met through equal access and deaf friendly approaches. This is what both of the communities need; support and purpose.

The thought of losing ASL in hearing, mainstream or deaf schools is saddening as it has been a door of opportunity in so many ways. As a teacher I hear the stories from hearing students sharing with me even after leaving my program. Uplifting stories of accomplishment and success, of how they made a difference with one simple act of kindness or education. Deaf students share  how they feel empowered and know how to educate for their rights because of experiences they or family members  had, understanding the value in who they are and their language because of learning something they did not know in an ASL class or from an ASL professional. I watch in awe my students signing with deaf individuals as I see the excitement on both people’s faces that a person took the time to learn my language and the other person happy their signs can be understood.

English: Community Center for the Deaf & Hard ...

English: Community Center for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The one experience I wish would grow is he number of deaf events in our areas and the number of deaf that attend the events we do have. Often, ASL students go to deaf events in droves looking to experience a deaf encounter:) and practice the skills they are learning but the opportunities are not always there. As a result, they go through the event signing with another hearing person which is great because they are signing but it is not the same as signing with a deaf person which is what they need. I support more events where ASL students support each other signing but I also support deaf events in which hearing and deaf connect. In hearing and deaf connections students are more likely to learn a wealth of information than what cannot be covered in class. Such as, community signs, social etiquette and facial expressions which seems to be one of the number one struggles for hearing people. We need to connect and continue to bridge the gap between the two communities which would convey the importance of having ASL in the schools, equal access in the business world and communities and deaf-friendly experiences wherever we go. It starts with this generation because they will carry the torch and make a difference.

In closing, be the difference you want to see, encourage others to make a difference and support keeping ASL in schools!

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