American Sign Language, or ASL, is the language used by the Deaf community in the U.S. and in Canada, and is the sixth most used language in the U.S.. Regardless, there is still a large divide between the deaf community and the hearing world.
At some schools, ASL is an already offered class but at most, it’s not. Also, there is no chance for advanced credit, such as IB/AP credit for the language. According to Jackie Borg, a deaf department clerk and mom, people not knowing the language can lead to some accessibility issues.
“The deaf people are everywhere and they need access to communicate in the world,” Borg said.
There are a couple of solutions to make the hearing world more accessible for the deaf community. Oralism could be a solution, which is teaching lip reading and talking to the deaf, but only 30% of the English language is clear to lip-readers and this leaves large gaps in communication.
The U.S. requires that all businesses are accessible for the deaf and the language gap can be filled using writing or an iPhone.
“They will have to use their iPhone to type or write to communicate when they are at store or at the restaurant which is fine,” Borg said.
But Borg also said the process of using her iPhone to order food can be a hassle and, if more people knew American Sign Language, it could save her a lot of time.
The idea of requiring young, hearing students to learn ASL is not a new one. An article in the Odyssey proposed the idea in 2016. ASL is a completely functioning language with it’s own grammar and metaphors but everyone learned the basics of it, it’d be a lot easier for the deaf community to order a cup of coffee or ask where the cucumbers are.
“If we mandate that ASL is taught at an early age throughout schools, we can unite those two worlds, and possibly eliminate the intangible distance between those who are deaf and those who are hearing,” The Odyssey said.
More people should definitely learn ASL, regardless if it is mandated in schools or not. There are a ton of resources for the hearing world to learn ASL, Hillcrest offers an ASL class, there’s plenty online or you can ask a deaf friend for some help. Startasl.com offers some free, basic sign lessons for people who are just starting out.
For anyone more adept in ASL, or just want to get to know the deaf community, the Sanderson Center offers “deaf nights out” which, Jackie Borg says, “ Hearing people are welcome to join and learn.”