Imagine you are at your local grocery store and you have a question about a product but you are not able hear what other people are saying and have no efficient way to communicate with others This is the life most deaf individuals must endure Imagine the relief that a deaf individual must experience when they run into another person who understands and speaks sign language and is able to communicate with them I feel it is vital that more individuals should learn and use sign language and most if not all school districts should offer instruction in it American Sign Language ASL has evolved in Canada and the United States as a means for deaf and hard of hearing individuals to express their thoughts wants needs and ideas When my mom was in nursing school she was required to take a language class and chose to study American Sign Language My mom decided she wanted my brother and I to learn some basic ASL phrases as well Even after my mom s class ended she wanted us to continue interacting with members of the deaf community
However in reality one will come across more deaf people than you might expect According to Gallaudet University about 2 to 4 of every 1 000 people in the United States are functionally deaf This number is 4 to 10 times higher if one includes all people with a severe hearing impairment The origins of American Sign Language can be traced to two specific historical events First in the 1600 s there was a group of people in Martha's Vineyard with a genetic mutation that resulted in a large deaf community This resulted in various indigenous signs being used among the deaf members and eventually resulted in the first school for the deaf in Hartford Connecticut in 1817 The second influence was French sign language brought to America by Laurent Clerc a deaf teacher from France who traveled to America with Thomas Gallaudet a hearing American minister The blending of the indigenous and French sign language formed the basis for American Sign Language as we know it today While the deaf community has struggled for years to bring ASL to classrooms there is much popularity in ASL among hearing parents and their babies Sign language allows a parent to be able to communicate with their baby many months earlier than a typical non signing parent
Studies have shown that signing babies have a bigger vocabulary understand more words and engage in more sophisticated play than non signing babies ASL is now not only being used as a language to communicate but also as a form of visual art In 2016 the Deaf West performing group s production of Spring Awakening became the first Broadway show where all of the actors used sign language and over half of the cast was deaf Today most play productions have at least one showing with ASL interpreters and screens with closed captions Many big screen movies also offer closed captioning for their deaf and hard of hearing patrons Now imagine the same situation as mentioned in the first paragraph but this time the workers in the store are able to sign back to you answer any of your questions and just exchange pleasantries All though this a far fetched dream I believe it could be possible for more Americans to at least become familiar with the deaf culture Even just being able to understand and sign the alphabet would be advantageous for everyone This process can start with more school districts offering instruction in American Sign Language and more citizens being encouraged to learn it ASL has endured many obstacles but its survival is a testament to its value in meeting the human need for communication
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