Now, their baby many months earlier than a typical

     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.

     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.

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   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.

    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.

    If there are
at least three deaf people in my very small town, chances are you have met, or
at least seen, a deaf person in your town. So why aren’t more people learning
sign language if there are people we have seen and met that are deaf or hard of
hearing in our community? I believe that this is because people are intimidated
and apprehensive to approach someone different from themselves. It is
intimidating because ASL is a language where each word, or even letter, has a
different hand motion. It is different from spoken word due to the modality of
the language as it is a visual and gestural language. Since only 5% of Earth’s
population is deaf, many people may not personally know someone who is deaf and
may therefore not realize the importance of learning ASL. 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.

     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. We started
attending meet-ups in my city for the deaf and those learning ASL. Even though
none of us were yet fluent, it was always a great experience and I learned so
much. The members of the deaf community were so helpful and willing to teach us.
Some time has passed since then and I have now moved to a much smaller town,
yet I have already met three deaf people who are my neighbors.

      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