“Blindness cuts us off from things; but deafness cuts us off from people…
The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, if not more important, than those of blindness. Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus–the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir and keeps us in the intellectual company of man.”
Helen Keller expressed what many don’t realize, human communication and connection is a vital part of a person’s psychosocial health. To increase inclusivity for people who are hearing impaired there should be more people who are able to do sign language.
American Sign Language (ASL) is the fifth most commonly used language in the United States, coming after English and Spanish. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders,”Approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble with hearing.” Taking into account the number of people who rely on sign language as a form of communication, it would be appropriate to teach the language in schools alongside the other languages taught in the curriculum.
ASL is not only used by deaf people. It is also used by hearing children of deaf parents, hearing siblings and relatives of the deaf, and hearing adults who are becoming deaf and are preparing for future hearing loss. When hearing people don’t know how to sign, someone who is deaf would rely on lip reading. Unfortunately, 30-40% of speech sounds can be accurately lip read in the best conditions. Oxford computer scientists reported that on average, hearing-impaired lip-readers can achieve 52.3 percent accuracy. On the other hand, Georgia Tech researchers say that only 30 percent of all speech is visible on the lips. Having people learn ASL makes it easier for people who are hearing impaired to understand what everyone is communicating.
Studying ASL will help increase communication between hearing and deaf people, prevent deaf students from feeling isolated in school, and bring awareness to the deaf culture throughout the community. Not only do students become bilingual, but they also have the opportunity to understand the challenges the deaf community faces and become advocates. Also, it helps future generations make better decisions when it comes to their deaf children.
Giving students the option of taking an ASL class in their school schedule will make them more likely to join. Most of the time students have responsibilities outside of school such as clubs, a part time job, or studying for a test. Having an ASL club would not be as effective because students wouldn be able to find the time to commit to learning the language. In Thomas A. Edison High School, first period starts at 8 A.M. and ninth period ends at 3:27 P.M.. Classes can start earlier if students take College Now.
Having the ability to understand ASL is useful in the future. Students will have a career path open to becoming a qualified ASL interpreter. There is a great need to increase the availability of qualified ASL interpreters for hospitals, courts, governmental agencies, community activities, and local, county, and state legislatures. According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics employment interpreters and translators is projected to grow 24 percent from 2020 to 2030. A bright future if you ask me!
We should do our best to help people who are disabled instead of condemning them. Learning ASL is the first step to having society more acceptable to people with disabilities and the future generations to come.