LMP Should Offer ASL

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Challis Payne, Staff Writer

Hearing people often overlook the advantage they have within society over the deaf in today’s world. Being a member of the deaf community while surrounded by those who are hearing is lonely and frustrating enough. The pandemic worsened things for those within the deaf community, with the use of masks amplifying the disconnect between the deaf and hearing communities. Those who are hard-of-hearing depend on lip-reading to communicate with the hearing world — the same hearing world where many are unfamiliar with sign language. 

According to a study done by Gallaudet University, ASL is the third most studied language in the United States, yet it is not emphasized in schools as much as Spanish or French. Almost every high school in the U.S. will offer students the ability to take the basic popular languages like Spanish, French, and Chinese, with LMP being no exception. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders stated that approximately 15 percent of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing. Of that, the Blossom Montessori School for the Deaf indicates that there are more than 800,000 deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals in Florida and more than 340,000 of them live in the Tampa Bay Area making it the fifth largest deaf community in the U.S. Yet, according to The Rocky Mountain ADA Center, the national U.S. census does not even recognize sign language as one of the 380 possible languages and 39 language groups listed.

American Sign Language is not just about perfecting grammar rules and signs in order to uphold a conversation (which is harder considering that, unlike vocal languages, ASL is not something one can remember because of its Latin and/or English roots). It offers a better, more in-depth understanding of the daily struggles overcome by each individual.  High schools tend to offer language classes based on their community to better communicate with everyone. As such, not offering ASL courses in high school would take away a person’s opportunity to understand the deaf and the hard-of-hearing minority.

LMP offering sign language in school can allow both students and teachers to communicate with peers who are part of the deaf community and allow them to have an easier time communicating with others. It would help facilitate communication and make learning more accessible for all students, especially for young children who are hearing impaired. It can also serve as a unique identifying factor in the application process of those applying to colleges as well as job resumes. Making ASL an available option to learn would also likely help reduce the employment gap by providing jobs like interpreters or teachers. It can also act as a way to communicate with those who have special needs and are non-verbal. Offering the course to students has the likelihood of changing a student’s career choice. As with other classes, a student may enter ASL with no idea what career they want to pursue or with a specific vocation in mind only to alter it due to the class. This specific language class, like any other, should be regarded as if it too has the power to transform its pupils and community. LMP could offer this course by hiring a teacher who knows ASL and offer it as either a one-semester language or two-semester language. Focusing on ASL 1 the first semester and ASL 2 the second semester.

If there is apprehension about developing an ASL course due to a lack of student interest, that “lack of interest” should be re-evaluated. If student interest is never officially measured, it is impossible to determine. It is not enough to speculate and calculate the interest if the question is never asked. It is even worse to simply assume it is something students would not want to take if they do not know it to be an option. A way to properly calculate this choice is to send a school-wide survey asking if it is a language students would be interested in studying.

Florida prides itself on being a melting pot of different ethnicities and cultures. LMP is similar as it welcomes and commends diversity, yet, more could be done when it comes to educating students about disabilities.

One has to wonder if LMP’s diversity can be further strengthened with not just another speaking language, but the language of the unspoken and the rich culture and community surrounding it.