Learning American Sign Language: Getting Started!

Learning American Sign Language: Getting Started!

From an early age, I was in love with American Sign Language. It truly is visually beautiful. And the more you learn about it, the more you love it. Part of the beauty and interest of ASL is that you never finish learning. There are always more opportunities to further your education. In my experience, the more you understand it, the more you realize how much you have yet to learn about it. ASL goes beyond the hand shapes in motion. ASL requires your eyes, your mouth, your eyebrows, and even your tongue at a fluent level. It includes how you turn your body, the way you lean in or out, your eye gaze, and your head tilt (not to mention the deep-seated cultural aspects of the language)! Learning ASL opens doors of opportunity, and at its core, offers the possibility to help others.


Learning ASL
The best way to learn is from those who are native to the language, such as the Deaf. Though this is not necessarily an option for all people who wish to learn the language, it is undoubtedly the best way to learn! If you do not have the opportunity to learn from the Deaf, there are thousands of existing resources at your disposal.
There’s a Chinese proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now”. So why not start learning right now!


How to start
Start small. One great educational resource is YouTube. This tool is especially great for learning ASL since the language does not translate well into pictures in a book. Instead, a video captures the motion and the direction of the sign. You can quickly type “learn ASL” into the search bar, and there are endless resources. Start by learning the essential signs. Such as: How are you? My name is… Good morning! Can you help me? Where is the restroom? In time, your fluency will grow.


Are you looking for a place to start? Check out this video, and let me know how you did in the comments below!

How Could ASL Translation be Vital to the Success of Your Business?

How Could ASL Translation be Vital to the Success of Your Business?

To understand the relevance and importance of American Sign Language (ASL) in a business setting, first, one must understand some commonly misunderstood points. ASL is a unique language with a set of grammar rules and an extensive vocabulary. Also, English is not a requirement to know ASL. If your primary language is ASL, you very well may not understand English. In other words, this assumption is like expecting any given American to be fluent in Russian or another foreign language. They are different languages; it is as simple as that.

What does this mean for you? If you are a business owner with deaf employees, know that although they know ASL, this does not mean they understand English. Some may be surprised to know that this includes writing notes back and forth, emails, employee handbooks, newsletters, closed captions, and even reading lips. Business leaders must accommodate their deaf or hard-of-hearing employees in fulfilling ways.  

What should I do? ADA law requires that business owners ensure that communication with people with disabilities is equally effective, as is communicating with someone without a disability. These accommodations may look like having an ASL interpreter for spoken English or an ASL Translator for written English. Also, Managers may hire ASL translating services for company websites and documents.   

What are the benefits? At the root of many problems, poor communication causes a significant amount of pressure and discomfort. Making communication a priority in your business has an overwhelming effect. Improved teamwork, camaraderie, respect, productivity, meeting expectations in the workplace, and continued growth may increase. By supplying ASL accessibility for your deaf and hard-of-hearing employees, you can create a productive workspace. 

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and the Need for Sign Language

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and the Need for Sign Language

Many schools and parents teach their babies and young children American Sign Language (ASL). This practice is rooted in studies that show a clear advantage to expanding children’s communication abilities and styles. These studies suggest significant improvements in children’s lives in and out of the classroom, such as:  

 +12 IQ point advantages   

Accelerated emotional development  

Lower frustration levels  

Improves child-parent bonding

Improves attentiveness to social gestures of others as well as of themselves  

Earlier reading and more extensive reading vocabulary  

Better grades in school.  

Several of these developmental assets are significantly a result of bilingualism. Although, explicitly learning Sign Language has many benefits for young children of all abilities. Knowing a visual language helps with coordination, understanding cues associated with body language, and learning the emotions conveyed by other’s faces.

Some may say it is ironic to encourage hearing children to learn ASL while at the same time, we tell our deaf children to learn to speak. Why can’t deaf children learn to talk? This idea lacks an understanding of how powerful an effect communicating in their primary language can have for deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children.  

This is not to say knowing English is not of benefit to deaf children. Just as the help of native English speakers learning, for example, Spanish. In this instance, we learn by seeing and hearing the Spanish words. The point is, when you are deaf, you cannot hear the language. Therefore, your primary language should be the one you can feel free to express yourself. One in which you can see, take in and understand without interference. If one cannot hear the language, one must be able to visualize the language. This idea is not solely words on paper, but a language geared for the eyes, Sign Language.   

The takeaway: Though ASL is something we encourage in those who do not need the language, we need to encourage and empower those who need the language.   

Next week we will discuss why English (either in written or spoken form) poses a challenge for DHH. 

Explaining Deaf Culture and its Rich History

Explaining Deaf Culture and its Rich History

Deaf Culture is the collection of cultural beliefs, practices, language, history, literature, and shared institutions of deaf communities that use sign language as a primary means of communication. These complex factors greatly impact how people experience the world. In the United States, more than 19 million deaf individuals use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. Many experts argue that the lack of awareness of deafness in American society contributes largely to the misunderstanding of the deaf and their experiences.  

By the early twentieth century, American Sign Language became a popular language. ASL appears in all walks of life including teachers, doctors, lawyers, and government workers. Though efforts are made in incorporating individuals of varying capabilities into all areas of American society, it is crucial for hearing individuals to familiarize themselves with Deaf Culture to better understand their community. 

Gallaudet, founded over 100 years ago, was the first institution to offer special courses for deaf students. The Gallaudet curriculum is steeped in the history and culture of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals. Many deaf students attend Gallaudet to get a fulfilling and extensive education. Gallaudet also teaches hearing individuals in courses for learning, translating, and interpreting ASL. 

For students who learn ASL from a young age, their experiences in American Sign Language extend beyond the classroom. Beginners start to understand the significance of facial expressions, hand movements, and body movements that signify different spoken and written words. ASL literature and signed dialogues expand the life experiences of deaf people, teaching them how to communicate with others.

In recent years, many developments in science and technology have helped to further develop the understanding deafness. Neurological and neurobiological research suggests that there are differences between the brains of deaf people and those of hearing people. This has led to the development of new methods of diagnosing neurological conditions in the deaf. The advent of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 has added another layer of legal protection for the deaf. Work in education and advocacy resulted in programs and policies that promote equal treatment of the deaf in employment settings. However, there are still many gaps in the field of medical services and compensation for the deaf. The lack of accessible health care and services for the deaf remains a pressing issue. 

The use of sign language as a secondary language to communicate with the deaf is not widespread in the United States. The few universities that offer courses on this subject do not require students to learn or use sign language. Efforts are underway to provide access to the Internet and make sign language available in schools. The challenge will persist as hearing individuals continue to educate themselves on the lives, culture, and hardships of the Deaf community. 

How to Make a Workplace Accessible to Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Individuals

How to Make a Workplace Accessible to Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Individuals

  1. Adjust your meeting rooms. 

Does your meeting room have rows of chairs, making it difficult to make eye contact? A rounded seating arrangement is more conducive for the deaf as they can see other’s faces. This format enables them to read lips if they wish, see and interpret the tone in which the person is speaking, and know who is talking. This small change can help reduce misunderstandings. 

  1. Set up a Video Relay Service (VRS) device. 

A VRS device is a device used to enable a deaf person to make and receive phone calls through an interpreter. This innovation allows a deaf person to contact suppliers, clients or make any call required within their workspace.   

  1. Supply an Interpreter. 

It may seem acceptable to work around having an interpreter by writing notes. This practice can cause many misunderstandings as English is not the native language of the Deaf. Providing an interpreter is essential for the work and the growth of deaf employees. These additional services will help increase the ease with which deaf employees can find information or communicate with co-workers. 

Making the workplace an accessible space for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals is an ongoing challenge and necessity for many employers. It is essential to have a well-developed strategy for ensuring that the workplace is easily adaptable to the specific needs of workers. One way to achieve this goal is through the development of a workplace accessibility plan, which should include policies, procedures, and guidelines for training and customizing workstations. While most organizations have policies in place for providing access to information in situations where such communication may be critical, they often fall short when it comes to providing reasonable accommodation for workers of all abilities. Thus, it is imperative to implement a comprehensive plan that considers deaf and hard-of-hearing employees’ unique needs. 

It is crucial to train employees on how to make a workplace accessible to disabled individuals. Training should include how to handle emergencies, use ASL, and use electronic or mechanical devices. Employees who do not know how to make a workspace accessible may not perform on a team properly. It is also vital that managers provide cultural training and information to their employees to understand their team members and how to respect and encourage them. If your business offers deaf-accessible products or services, promote them! 

Why Business Owners Should Know About the Americans with Disabilities Act

Why Business Owners Should Know About the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that U.S. Congress enacted and signed into law in July of 1990 and has since expanded. The Act protects individuals with disabilities who work and seek employment within the United States.

The Act’s purpose is to ensure that ALL employees companies are provided with reasonable accommodation to perform their jobs. For instance, companies may require at least one translator (or interpreter) to translate English into Sing Language and vice versa. An interpreter is especially critical in specific fields such as engineering or medicine because of the specialized nature of the information needed. If an employee or client cannot comprehend communications, they will have a hard time understanding crucial information involved in the workplace. These misunderstandings can mean someone’s life in medical settings and someone’s future on legal grounds.

The ADA ensures that individuals with disabilities are given the same opportunity for employment as other individuals. Any individual with a disability who experiences discrimination can use the ADA law for protection in court.

What are some of the steps that a business owner can take to ensure that they comply with the ADA? Business organizations must register with the Department of Labor. Once they become registered, they are required to undergo many tests and monitoring procedures to ensure compliance. Managers and employees should also begin by undergoing cultural competency training and awareness presentations.