Sign Language Interpreters

Many people have questions about sign language interpreters. Below is some basic information about sign language interpreters and how to work with one. More detailed information about sign language interpreters will be provided in future posts.

What does a sign language interpreter do?

• Allow more direct communication.
• Improve communication accuracy and avoid misunderstandings.
• Decrease frustrations.
• Raise the “comfort level” of those interacting.
• Facilitate more complete communication, so that both individuals feel free to ask questions and offer more in-depth explanations.
• Save time
• Make clear any non-verbal communication

How do you work with a sign language interpreter?

The interpreter makes communication possible between persons separated by different language modes. Listed below are some tips on how to work with an interpreter.

• First remember the interpreter’s role is to facilitate communication. It is inappropriate for you to address him/her directly.
• Maintain eye contact with the deaf person, not with the interpreter.
• Allow the interpreter to position themselves near you, this will allow the deaf person to watch the interpreter and your expressions as needed.
• Address the deaf person directly, avoid phrases such as, “ask her this…”, or “tell him to . . .” Talk through, not to, the interpreter.
• The interpreter is bound by a Code of Ethics which requires him/her to interpret everything communicated, whether it be signed or spoken. This includes any phone calls or comments you make in the deaf person’s presence. It is inappropriate for you to request the interpreter to keep anything from the deaf person
• In situations of a serious nature, the use of a deaf person’s close friend or family member as an interpreter is inappropriate.

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What Language Do Deaf People Think In?

What language do deaf people think in?

Not all deaf people are the same. This means that deaf people think in the language they have been taught. (An exception is when oral deafies learn sign and vice versa.)

For example, a deaf child who only speaks English will think in English. A child whose main language is ASL, will think in ASL.

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Deaf Alarm Clock

Many people wonder how deaf people are able to wake up if they can’t hear an alarm. However, with the advent of new technology for the deaf, waking up is no longer a problem for deaf people.

So, how do they do it? With what you may call a “deaf alarm clock,” of course!

A deaf alarm clock is an alarm clock that is usually hooked up to a louder alarm, a strobe light, or a vibrator.

An alarm clock with a louder alarm will wake up a person with minimal hearing loss. When the alarm clock goes off, it is much louder than your average alarm clock, and most people with a small amount of hearing loss are able to hear it.

An alarm clock with a strobe light will wake up a person with more severe hearing loss. The strobe light is connected to the alarm clock. When the alarm goes off, the strobe light will flash brightly and wake the deaf person up.

An alarm clock with a bed vibrator will also wake up a person with a more severe hearing loss. The vibrator is connected to the alarm clock and is also attached to the bed. When the alarm goes off, the bed will shake and wake up the deaf person.

An alarm clock with a pillow vibrator wakes up a severely deaf person as well. The vibrator is connected to the alarm clock and is placed under the deaf person’s pillow. When the alarm goes off, the pillow will shake and wake the deaf person up.

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13 Basic Communication Tips for Interacting with Deaf and Hard of Hearing People

1. Never do anything from behind without letting the person know that you are present. If they are situated away from you, tap their shoulder lightly to get their attention. Never walk up directly behind the Deaf individual. Try to walk around, allowing them to see you and tap them on the shoulder lightly.

2. Be very careful with your labels.
Never call an individual “deaf and dumb” or “hearing impaired.” These labels imply that the individual cannot think or that they are broken because they cannot hear. Appropriate terms would be “deaf” or “hard of hearing” or “person with a hearing loss.” Use the term that the individual prefers.

3. Be aware of communication needs.
Not all deaf individuals are the same regarding communication needs so it is important to note preferences and make access to information and communication as accessible as possible.

4. Don’t shout.
It will not improve the person’s ability to hear you. It will make things louder, for sure, but it won’t make things clear and understandable.

5. Eye contact and facial expressions
Eye contact and facial expressions are very important in Deaf culture. It one doesn’t look at the person who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing while talking to them, that person will feel that the hearing person is not interested in what they’re saying.

6. Hand Waving, Foot Stomping and Light Flashing
When people who are Deaf wave their hands, stomp their feet or flash a light (3 times maximum), it is often an indication of trying to get an individual’s attention. It may seem rude or immature but it is very appropriate in Deaf culture to do these actions.

7. Idioms
Idioms are a way in which the words of a particular language are joined together
to express thought. (Examples: Paint the town red; don’t rock the boat; you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, don’t beat around the bush, etc.) These are very confusing for Deaf individuals. Deaf individuals will directly tell you how they feel in conversation and by the expressions on their faces.

8. Keep a Pen and Paper Handy
This can be one mode of communication that you can use.

9. Learn Sign Language or at least some Survival Signs
Learn basic signs, numbers, and fingerspelling

10. Obstructions Free From Mouth
Long mustaches, pens, pencils, cigarettes, hands and gum, etc. The Deaf or Hard of Hearing client might think you are talking to them, but you may only be chewing gum. Be considerate and keep things out of your mouth.

11. Speechreading
People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing who are more familiar with the English language will be more able to speech-read (lip-read) with more ease than an
individual who is not. Only 20% of all speech is visible on the lips. This means that out of a sentence of 10 words, a Deaf individual would be able to read only 2 words, maybe more if the Deaf person knew the context of the sentence.

12. Speak Normally
Try not to exaggerate your mouth movements. Slow down a little bit and separate your words. Exaggerated mouth movements will not improve the Deaf person’s ability to understand you.

13. Walking through or around Signed Conversation
If you encounter two Deaf people having a conversation, see if there is a path around them; if not, walk quickly and unobtrusively between them, signing “excuse me,” whether or not the two having the conversation see it. There is no need to duck or crawl around. Another way to approach this situation is to touch the back of one of the Deaf individuals so they can step forward and allow you to go through behind them.

These are some very basic tips. But when in doubt, ask the deaf or hard of hearing individual for suggestions or tips to improve communication.





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3 Forms of Sign Language: ASL vs. PSE vs. SEE

There are three major forms of Sign Language currently used in the United States: American Sign (ASL), Pidgin Signed English (PSE), and Signed Exact English (SEE).

American Sign Language (ASL)

ASL is used by many deaf in the United States, thus its use promotes assimilation into the Deaf Community. ASL is a visual language, and speech-reading or listening skills are not needed to learn ASL fluently. Because of its visual nature, ASL is very graphic, and understanding of concepts can be promoted more easily. It has developed over time through usage by deaf individuals and is a free-flowing, natural language. ASL is a language complete in itself. It is not usually written or spoken, but can be translated, just like French or German, to English and vice versa. ASL has it’s own syntax and grammar. It does count as a language credit at University level, because it is a separate language. ASL usually follows the TIME + TOPIC + COMMENT structure.

Pidgin Signed English (PSE) or Signed English

PSE is probably the most widely used communication mode in the United States among deaf and hearing persons who work with them. Many teachers use PSE or Signed English. The vocabulary is drawn from ASL but follows English word order. Words that do not carry information (e.g. to, the, am, etc.) are often dropped, as are the word endings of English (e.g. -ed, -s, -ment, etc.). This means that the signer can easily speak while signing, since it is possible to keep pace with spoken English. It is simpler to learn than ASL or SEE, since one does not need to include all English endings, nor does one to master the structure or idioms of ASL.

Signing Exact English (SEE)

SEE is based upon signs drawn from ASL and expanded with words, prefixes, tenses, and endings to give a clear and complete visual presentation of English. The ASL sign for the concept of “pretty, lovely, beauty, beautiful” and other such synonyms is retained for beauty, initialized with P for pretty, L for lovely, and the suffix -ful is added for beautiful. The child thus has an opportunity to develop an expanded vocabulary. The learning of this English based sign system may be more comfortable for English-speaking parents. Maximum use of residual hearing and speech-reading is encouraged since the signs match the elements of spoken English. SEE encourages the incorporation of ASL features to show intonation visually. SEE does require more signing time that PSE, because of the word endings and prefixes, etc. Over-concentration on signing every word may lead to “colorless” signing.

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Stereotypes and Misconceptions about Deafness

1. All deaf people sign

The ability and desire to sign is also different from person to person. It all depends how the individual was raised and whether or not they were ever encouraged/discouraged to sign. It’s about preference and how the deaf individual is most comfortable communicating.

2. Hearing aids make you hear normally

Hearing aids can help some deaf and hard of hearing people, but it depends on the person and their specific type and severity of hearing loss. In addition, how well a person can hear with Hearing Aids depends on the environment, the situation, background noise, among many other factors. Hearing Aids cannot and do not restore hearing or fix hearing loss. The only amplify sound and assist with Hearing. It’s a Hearing AID, not a Hearing FIX.

3. The majority of deaf people cannot speak

Not all deaf people are the same. Some Deaf speak very well and clearly; others choose not to use their voice if they think that they are difficult to understand or have problems gauging their pitch or volume.

4. A cochlear implant restores hearing

Cochlear implants can help some deaf people, but it depends on the person and their specific type and severity of hearing loss. Not all deaf individuals want or are a qualified candidate for cochlear implants. Cochlear implants don’t “cure” hearing loss.

5. All deaf people speak funny

Deaf people are not all the same. Some speak well and clearly and others do not. It depends on their hearing loss type, if they have had or needed speech therapy, etc. And deaf people don’t “talk funny or weird.” What you are hearing is called a Deaf Accent. Not everyone who is deaf or hard of hearing has a deaf accent.

6. Deaf people cannot drive

Deaf people can drive. In fact, it has been proven that deaf or hard of hearing people are better drivers that Hearing people and have fewer accidents or mishaps. Deaf people are more visually aware of their surrounding while driving than Hearing people. A Hearing test is not required for getting a license to drive. We see the flashing lights on ambulances or police cars, etc.

7. All deaf people lipread

Some Deaf people are very skilled lip readers, but many are not. Only about 30% of spoken English is visible on the lips. This is because many speech sounds have identical mouth movements. For example: p and b look exactly alike on the lips.

8. If you shout, it helps a deaf person understand

Usually this is not the case. It is better to speak naturally and at a comfortable pace. Not too fast and not too slow. Exagerating mouth movements also does not help a deaf person understand what you are saying. Just speak normally.

9. Deaf people are not as intelligent as Hearing people

Hearing loss is not representative of intelligence or ability. Deaf people can do everything a Hearing person can do, expect hear as well. There are many famous deaf individuals who are known for their brilliance. To think that deaf people are less intelligent than Hearing people just because they’re deaf is extremely offensive.

10. All deaf people are completely and totally deaf

There are ranges of hearing loss. Some people who are legally deaf prefer to be called Hard of Hearing. Some people who are legally deaf prefer to be called deaf. It depends on the individual and their type of hearing loss and what the individual themselves prefers to be called.

11. All deaf people understand and participate in Deaf Culture

Not all deaf people choose to participate in deaf culture. Deaf culture requires a common language and shared values, beliefs, norms, behaviors, etc. Not all deaf people use sign language. And besides that, some deaf people prefer to use technology only and do not sign and want to fit into the Hearing World as much as possible not not connect with other deaf individuals.

12. Deaf people read braille

This is a common question and assumption, but I’m not quite sure why. Some blind people use braille. Deaf people have problems with their ears, not their eyes. So there would be no reason that a deaf person would read braille unless they were Deaf-Blind (both blind and deaf).

13. Deaf people cannot have children

This is a common assumption, but I’m not quite sure why. Deaf people can have children. There is no reason why they would not be able to or why they would not be allowed to have children.

14. Deaf people only have “lowly” jobs

Some do, but some don’t. Not everyone is the same. Deaf people can do anything Hearing people can do, except hear as well. There are hundreds upon thousands of famous and influencial deaf individuals. I wouldn’t possible be able to list them all, but here is a list of a few of them:

  • Marlee Matlin – The famous deaf actress who won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her debut role in Children of a Lesser God at the age of twenty-one.
  • Heather Whitestone – The first deaf woman to be crowned Miss America.
  • Michelle Banks – A famous deaf African-American performer.
  • C.J. Jones – A very intelligent and talented African-American deaf actor and comedian. He has performed in many plays, TV shows, and films.
  • Matthew Morgan – Deaf World Magician (
  • Liliana Morgan – Deaf Russian Dancer (
  • David K Shelton – Movie actor, comedian, and owner of Deaf Funny Videos website (
  • Lou Ferrigno – Played the “Hulk” in the original series.
  • Tristan Thunderbolt – Deaf Native American Actor (
  • “JJ” Jones – Deaf mime performer since 1978 (
  • Pinky Aiello – An ASL storyteller at
  • Evelyn Glennie – A world famous deaf percussionist.
  • Sean Forbes – Deaf rapper, founder of D-PAN, Deaf Performing Artist Network.
  • Sean Berdy – A deaf actor, comedian and dancer. He was in Sandlot 2, Legend of the Mountain Man, The Deaf Family, and the hit TV show Switched at Birth (
  • Bob Hiltermann – Founder of Deaf West Theater (Fountain Theater) in North Hollywood, California.
  • Robert Hoskin – A well-known deaf filmmaker.
  • Bernard Bragg – a Deaf performer, writer, director, poet, and artist. He was a founder of The National Theater of the Deaf and is “regarded by many as the leading professional deaf actor in the country”.
  • Mark Wood – Deaf Executive Producer/Director/Writer of ASL Films (
  • Alexander Genievsky – Deaf Russian-born actor, filmmaker, writer, producer, and artist. Founder and President of the non-profit art organization Universal Sign Entertainment (
  • Katie Leclerc – American actress who has appeared on several television series, including Veronica Mars and Fashion House. In 2011, she received a lead role on the show Switched At Birth, starring as Daphne Vasquez.
  • Ryan Lane – Deaf actor with a role in the Dummy Hoy documentary and on television shows such as Switched at Birth, Cold Case, and House MD.
  • Marko Vuoriheimo “Signmark” – Deaf rapper from Finland and the first deaf person to sign a record deal with an international recording company.
  • Iosif Schneiderman – Deaf mime and professional actor who grew up in Russia and has performed all over the world. He directed the grand opening of DeafWay II in 2001 and co-wrote and starred in the internationally acclaimed award winning play, “Deaf Snow White” produced by Cleveland Sign Stage Theatre.
  • Laura C. Redden Searing – First deaf female journalist.
  • Julius Wiggins – Creator of Silent News, the newspaper of the Deaf Community.
  • Ken Davis – Founder/owner of Deafnewspaper (
  • Juliette Low – The founder of the Girl Scouts.
  • Shelley Beattie – Professional bodybuilder who once held the record for bench pressing (315 pounds!)
  • Terrence Parkin – A deaf Olympic swimmer who took home a silver medal in the 2000 Olympics and two gold medals in the 2005 Deaflympics.
  • James “Deaf” Burke – A famous deaf boxer. He was the first boxer who was involved in a fight that resulted in a death.
  • Curtis Pride – A current deaf professional baseball player.
  • Kenny Walker – Was a deaf professional football player.
  • Matt Hamill – Contestant on The Ultimate Fighter, now UFC fighter. Also 3 time NCAA Division III National Wrestling Champion.
  • Kevin M. Hall – A professional golfer that graduated from Ohio State University (
  • Donna Sue Baker – A Deaf woman who went to TSD and won many medals in track. She represented the U.S.A. in the Deaflympics and traveled to Europe.
  • Jeffrey “Jeff” Float – A former American swimmer who became the only legally deaf athlete from the USA to win an Olympic gold medal.
  • Tamika Catchings – A professional basketball player in the WNBA. She played for the University of Tennesse.
  • LeRoy Colombo – Famous deaf lifeguard entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for saving 907 lives.
  • Douglas Tilden – A well-known deaf sculptor.
  • Dianrez – Well-Known Deaf Blogger
  • Tomora Michelle Pace – Deaf author and teacher.
  • Howard Hughes – An aviator, film producer, engineer, film director, industrialist, and philanthropist.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven – Was completely deaf for the last part of his life and yet managed to produce some of the greatest music of all time.
  • Robert Weitbrecht – Invented the TTY along with James Marsters who was also deaf.
  • Ashley Fiolek – Deaf motocross racer that is sponsored by Redbull (
  • Cal Rodgers – The very first deaf pilot in the USA in 1911.
  • Kitty O’Neil – A former stuntwoman and racer.
  • Sue Thomas – Undercover specialist for FBI, the inspiration for the TV series Sue Thomas: FBEye, international speaker, author, founder of Kennels of Levi: EPEC Service Dogs for physically challenged, founder of WaterBrooks a Christian spiritual renewal center, and founder of Sue Thomas Ministries outreach to homeless.
  • Thomas Alva Edison – An American scientist, inventor, and businessman.
  • Allison Lam – Deaf firefighter.
  • Gregory Hlibok – First person with a disability to be appointed by the FCC to the head of its Disability Rights Office.
  • Rhulin Thomas – First deaf aviator to fly coast to coast.
  • James Lee Taylor III – Deaf Rapper from the South Bronx on NY Daily Newspaper and City Limits Magazine. His story has been told in the book Train Go Sorry.
  • Kunle Adegboye – CEO at Morayo Communications, Morayocare & Morayowireless and a role model to many young Nigerians with his line: “Disability is in the mind”.
  • Claudia Gordon – First deaf female African American lawyer. She was also the first deaf student to graduate from the American University Washington DC College of Law.

Through awareness and educating others about deafness, we can create understanding and work to eliminate barriers, stereotypes, and negative perceptions of deafness.

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Deaf Culture: The Basics

What is it?

Deaf culture as defined by Dr. Barbara Kannapell (deaf professor at Gallaudet University): a set of learned behaviors and perceptions that shape the values and norms of deaf people based on their shared or common experiences.

Deaf culture as defined by Dr. Bill Vicars (Deaf ASL teacher): Deaf culture consists of the norms, beliefs, values, and mores shared by members of the Deaf community. We believe that it is fine to be Deaf. If given the chance to become hearing, most of us would choose to remain Deaf. We tend to congregate around the kitchen table rather than the living room sofa because the lighting is better in the kitchen. Our good-byes take nearly forever, and our hello’s often consist of serious hugs. When two of us meet for the first time we tend to exchange detailed biographies and describe our social circles in considerable depth.

Deaf culture as defined on DeafNation T-Shirt: Deaf: (n) 1. a particular group of people who share a beautiful language: ASL (American Sign Language). 2. a term measured by culture and attitude, not by an audiogram. 3. a member of a vibrant group of people with their own culture, history, folklore and humor. 4. which vibration and vision are the primary senses.

Now, to clarify things a little more, let’s put aside what deaf culture is, and discuss what deaf culture is not.

Cultural Perspective vs Pathological Perspective

There are those who insist there is no such thing as Deaf culture. Some people will argue that deafness is nothing more than a disability, a disability that must be fixed. Getting this disability “fixed” may involve repeated visits to an audiologist, getting fitted for hearing aids, attending numerous speech therapy sessions, or even undergoing surgery to get a cochlear implant.

This is what’s called the pathological approach to deafness. It focuses on what’s wrong–the inability to hear–and utilizes numerous technological and therapeutic strategies to solve the problem. The success of this approach varies from individual to individual.

It is not my intention to be overly critical of the pathological approach. First, as previously mentioned, the results vary on an individual basis. Second, it must be acknowledged that there are those who, based on the degree of their hearing loss (or time of onset), may feel more comfortable in the hearing world. For many hard of hearing or late-deafened people, technology may be a welcomed addition that allows them to continue functioning in the world of their choice. Last but not least, it’s not entirely a black-or-white issue; there are many deaf people who use technology to aid their hearing ability AND participate in the Deaf culture.

So when people argue whether deafness is a disability or a culture, I often respond with a quote from a book, Deaf Again (Handwave Publications, 2005): “Deafness is a disability that is so unique, its very nature causes a culture to emerge from it. Participation in this culture is voluntary.”

Here are some of the characteristics and values of Deaf Culture:

  • Membership in the Deaf community is usually based on deafness, although many children of deaf adults, interpreters, and other persons fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) often become “part” of the deaf community. 
  • There is a heavy emphasis on vision. American Sign Language (ASL), a visual mode of communication, is the language used within the Deaf community. Members gain the vast majority of their information through their eyes, and by a observing closely what is happening around them. 
  • There is a specific set of social norms. The accepted forms of etiquette within the Deaf community are somewhat different from those in the general society. For example: 
  • Members do not generally use their voices with Deaf friends, but will with hearing persons. In fact, many members of the Deaf community disassociate themselves from speech. 
  • Members will wave, tap or throw a small piece of paper to attract a person’s attention. 
  • In Deaf culture, it is polite to “talk”, that is sign, with one’s mouth full, but speaking with one’s hands full is not done. 
  • Members use a variety of devices to replace ordinary alarm clocks, doorbells, telephones, fire alarms, etc.. 
  • Deaf culture had no prohibition against staring, because it is necessary for effective communication. In hearing culture, however it is often considered rude. 
  • Members place a strong emphasis on fostering and maintaining social ties within the community.

Future blog posts and videos connected to this blog will continue to explain more about what deaf culture is, what it means, and why it is important. Deaf Culture is a very broad subject and I look forward to sharing more information and examples of deaf culture in daily living experiences.

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What is ASL? Where did it come from?

What is ASL?

ASL stands for American Sign Language. ASL is a visual language, rather than a spoken language. With signing, the brain processes language through the eyes. The shape, placement, and movement of the hands, as well as facial expressions and body movements, all play a very important part in converying information

Contrary to common belief, sign language is not a universal language. Each country has its own sign language, and certain regions of countries have dialects, much like the many languages spoken all over the world. For example, in Germany, there is German Sign Language (GSL) and in England, there is British Sign Language (BSL.) Like any spoken language, ASL is a language with its own unique rules of grammar and syntax. And like all languages, ASL is a living language, which means that it grows and changes over time.

American Sign Language is used primarily in the USA and many parts of Canada. ASL is accepted by many high schools, colleges, and universities in fulfillment of modern and “foreign” language academic degree requirements in the United States. There are about 500,000 ASL users in the USA and Canada, of which ASL is used as a primary language.

Where did ASL come from?

The history of American Sign Language didn’t truly begin until 1814 when deaf education was introduced to the U.S. There is virtually no information about American Sign Language history before this time.

Early in the 1800s, there were only a few thousand deaf Americans. No standard signed language existed at this time, but various signing systems were created in the deaf communities. These sign systems are now known as Old American Sign Language. The American Sign Language of today is actually related to this language.

The history of American Sign Language really started in 1814 with Dr. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. Gallaudet was a minister from Hartford, Connecticut. His neighbor, Mason Fitch Cogswell, had a deaf daughter who was nine years old named Alice Cogswell. Dr. Gallaudet realized Alice was very smart despite the fact that she couldn’t speak or hear, and he wanted to teach Alice how to communicate. Gallaudet had a little success teaching Alice reading and spelling, but he didn’t know anything about the most effective ways of educating the deaf. So, Gallaudet gained community support and enough money in order to go to Europe. Since there was a history of deaf education in Europe, Gallaudet knew he could learn the best educational methods there.

In Europe, Gallaudet met Abbe Sicard, Jean Massieu, and Laurent Clerc. Abbe Sicard was Abbe de l’Epee’s successor at the National Institute for Deaf-Mutes. Laurent Clerc and Jean Massieu were once Sicard’s students and became accomplished deaf educators. Gallaudet studied the teaching methods of these instructors and even took private lessons with Clerc, who was one of the best teachers at the institute.

When Gallaudet was getting ready to travel back to America, he asked Clerc to accompany him. Clerc was one of Sicard’s best instructors and Gallaudet knew he would be a huge help in starting a deaf school in the U.S. Clerc agreed and joined Gallaudet on his journey. Gallaudet and Clerc’s school, which is now known as the American School for the Deaf, was established in Hartford, Connecticut in 1817 as the first public free deaf school in the U.S. This was a huge milestone in American Deaf history.

The school grew quickly and deaf students from all over the United States came together to attend this school. Just like it was at Abbe de l’Epee’s school, the students brought signs from home with them. American Sign Language stemmed from these signs as well as signs from French Sign Language that Gallaudet learned from Clerc. Gallaudet retired in 1830 and Clerc taught at the deaf school until the 1850s. By 1863, twenty-two deaf schools in the U.S. had been established. Most of them were founded by Clerc’s students. They continued to use Clerc’s deaf education methods in these schools.

When Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet died in 1851, his youngest son Edward Miner Gallaudet continued his legacy in deaf education. Edward became a teacher at the American School for the Deaf in Hartford. Edward always wanted to establish a deaf college and in 1857, Edward was asked to be the superintendent of the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind in Washington, D.C. Edward presented his idea for a deaf college to Congress and they passed legislation in 1864 permitting the Columbia Institute to issue college degrees.

In 1864 the Columbia Institute’s college division (the National Deaf-Mute College) opened. This was the first college for the deaf. In 1893 the college was renamed Gallaudet College to honor Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. In 1986 the school was renamed Gallaudet University. Gallaudet University is known today for being the first and only deaf university in the world. And it’s in our very own Washington, D.C.!

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Introduction to Signs of Life–ASL

Hey everyone!

This blog was created to better help to bridge the gap between the Deaf World and the Hearing World. Through written word and video, it is my hope to increase knowledge and understanding of sign language and deaf culture, as well as reduce any negative perceptions and inaccurate stereotypes of deafness and Deaf Culture.

I have noticed that there are many videos on YouTube that Hearing people have created to teach sign language. Many of these videos that I have watched are incorrect and are not appropriate tools for people who wish to learn sign language, so I would like to post videos that are accurate teachings of sign language. In addition, sign language is just one small aspect of Deaf Culture. If someone wants to learn sign language, it is crucial that they also learn about and understand Deaf Culture. Therefore, in addition to teaching sign language, I would like to blog about Deaf Culture and create video discussions that relate to Deaf Culture.

Why learn sign language? When can you use sign language?

1. Nature Walks–you want to converse with a friend without startling wildlife.

2. Loud Venue–If you’re at a bar or construction site or a rock concert and there is a lot of background noise, you can easily converse in sign language when it is too loud to converse by speaking verbally.

3. Eating–with sign language, you can “talk” with another person if your mouth is full of food.

4. Listening to Headphones–If you are listening to music and have headphones on, someone can sign to you and you will be able to converse and understand one another without having to turn off your music to hear them.

5. Service Industry–If you are at a formal event and need to communicate with your staff without yelling across the room, sign language can come in very handy.

6. Movie Theaters–Instead of talking during the movie and interrupting the movie, you can use sign language.

7. Extended Distance–If you are across the room, you can communicate quite easily without having to yell.

8. Classroom–IF you need to tell someone something without interrupting a student or professor that is talking, sign language is perfect.

9. On the Job–If you come in contact with a deaf or hard of hearing customer or patron who uses sign language, you can communicate with them easier and make their experience more enjoyable and less frustrating.

10. Private Conversations–If you need to have a private conversation that you’d prefer wasn’t listened in on by others, sign language is the perfect avenue of communication

11. Sports–If you need to communicate with someone on the field without the other team knowing what you said, sign language can be a clear way to communicate messages for special plays.

12. Under Water–you can communicate under water.

13. Library–If you haev to be quiet in a library, you can sign instead of speak verbally.

14. Deaf and Hard of Hearing people–you can communicate with deaf and hard of hearing individuals and families who use sign language

15. Babies–Teaching babies to sign is perfect because they can’t express verbal thoughts or ideas or needs yet, and sign language makes communication less frustrating.

These are only a few reasons to learn ASL. Some people view sign language as “inferior” or “limited” language used by the deaf community; however, this is not true. ASL is so much more advanced than spoken language in many ways and has many benefits over spoken language.

It was once assumed that sign language was use exclusively by people within the deaf community. However, sign language is quickly being adopted by hearing people as a preferred method of communications. Many business professionals consider ASL as an essential skill for effective communications.

If you are interested in learning sign language and learning about Deaf Culture, please keep an eye out for upcoming written and video posts. Tell your friends about this blog. Follow us on YouTube.

Email us with questions or requests at

Here is a list of some of the things that are yet to come:

  • Stereotypes/Misconceptions
  • Deaf Culture
  • ASL poetry
  • ASL vs PSE vs SEE
  • Interpreters
  • Technology used by Deaf individuals
  • Tips for Interacting with Deaf and Hard of Hearing people
  • All about Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Audism explained
  • Trivia
  • Signed Songs
  • How to Interpret songs
  • Funny stories
  • Hearing Culture Idioms vs Deaf Culture Idioms
  • Deaf Schools and Deaf Colleges
  • Famous Deaf Celebrities
  • Controversies within Hearing and Deaf Cultures
  • Causes of Hearing Loss
  • Types of Hearing Loss
  • Movies and TV shows with Deaf Characters

Some of the upcoming Video Lessons:

  • Fingerspelling
  • Numbers
  • Greetings
  • Family Relationships
  • Time
  • Pronouns, Question Words, Endings
  • Mental Action
  • Emotions
  • Movement and Travel
  • Opposites
  • Size and Quantity
  • Communication and Government
  • Education
  • Nouns
  • Nature
  • Body, Medicine, and Health
  • Home, Furniture, Clothing
  • Food
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Countries, Cities, and States
  • Animas
  • Religion

And more:

  • How to master Fingerspelling
  • Politically correct terms
  • Contractions
  • Pluralization and Frequency
  • Directionality of Signs
  • Negation
  • Classifiers

We hope that you follow this blog!

Get ready to learn a New Language and a New Culture!!

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