According to the National Institue on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (nidcd.nih.gov), the definition of American Sign Language is as follows:
American Sign Language (ASL) is a complete, complex language that employs signs made by moving the hands combined with facial expressions and postures of the body. It is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf and is one of several communication options used by people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
Okay, but can we extend the benefits of ASL beyond that definition?
The other day while lunching with a friend, we were discussing the content of my blog articles. Both of us are bilateral cochlear implant recipients. During the discussion, she told me that she felt I often tell the positive stories about cochlear implantation, but I don’t mention the struggles. I appreciated her comments and perspective.
When we take our cochlear implants off, we are still deaf. That means for at least part of the day or night, we live in the world of the deaf. Our lives still go on during these times of silence. Is it a good idea to have an alternate form of communication for us to rely on during these times to communicate with family or even a first responder? Is it logical to consider this would improve the quality of our lives?
Among the top three brands, Cochlear Corporation (www.cochlear.com), MED-EL (medel.com) and Advanced Bionics (www.advancedbionics.com), there is a very high success rate. Each company offers state-of-the-art solutions for their recipients. For many, it is a life-changing solution.
Yet, there are often circumstances where some of us struggle. For me it is in noise. My lunch friend mentioned she often needs to face people. For some others, it is hearing on the telephone, or even enjoying music. The biggest plus of a cochlear implant is hearing spoken language. It is what connects us to the human race. It allows us to attend performances, receive directions and vital updates on what is happening at home and around the world. Those of us who choose to get a cochlear implant do so because we want to hear voices and sounds that alert us.
Perhaps three decades ago, many hearing-aid users were resistant to learning American Sign Language. There was a much deeper divide between the late-deafened community and the Deaf, often referred to as the Deaf/deaf. Today, that has changed. More late-deafened individual are actively seeking resources and sites that will help them attain a decent competency in American Sign Language (ASL) which can be a tool in achieving successful communication strategies.
There are also benefits to everyone in our society knowing at least some basic signs. Here are just a few:
- Communicating with stroke victims who cannot speak
- Babies who cannot yet speak use baby signs communicate with a parent
- Health professionals would be able to communicate with persons who are deaf
- Emergency personnel would recognize and respond to a person in distress who cannot speak
- ASL would help young children to understand about differences and living in another mode in our society– and the need for inclusion
- It would offer people a way to communicate in a “quiet” zone
There are many free online sites that have free ASL lessons and courses. One great site I have visted is www.lifeprint.com. There is also a wealth of information and videos on www.youtube. If you visit Gallaudet’s ASL Connect site (www.gallaudet.edu), there is information on free introductory videos. Gallaudet also has a summer residency program.
American Sign Language is a beautiful and expressive language. With companies like Starbuck’s (www.starbucks) offering ASL as a mode of communication available for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing at some sites, they are setting an example for all of us. The message is, persons who are deaf are consumers. We need more of this type of thinking in our society, and among Deaf/deaf advocates.
Do you think a knowledge of ASL would improve the quality of life for many Americans?
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