ASLpah.com | Volume 1, Issue
20, March 2005 | William G. Vicars Ed.D., Editor
Hello ASL Heroes! Good to be with you again!
Welcome to this months collection of fascinating questions from ASL students
and teachers around the globe.
In a message dated 1/27/2005 11:27:15 AM Pacific Standard Time,
a student writes:
This question actually concerns my
has been unofficially speaking sign language as a nurse for 25
years and has
wanted for some time to become certified and possibly a
interpreter. Unfortunately, recent health problems left the top
left side of
her lip paralyzed. Are people able to communicate effectively
professionally in sign language without being able to mouth the
Thank you for your time, I will be enrolling soon and look very
It is a fact that ASL does use mouth morphemes. Mouth morphemes are
movements of the mouth that convey meaning. This is not the same as
mouthing English words. Rather, we use a mouth morpheme to modify
a sign. For example, while signing thin we purse our lips to
indicate thinness. When signing "large" we mouth the sound "cha" to
indicate something very large.
Will this affect your mothers ability to effectively interpret?
Yes, to some degree.
The question is whether it will impact the interpreting enough to be
distracting to the Deaf client.
The answer to that is: It depends on the client.
You will get conflicting opinions.
I don't know your mother or the true extent of her disability.
Since she has been signing for so many years, she has obviously
signed with many Deaf people. My suggestion is that your mom should
look inside herself and based on her own experience with Deaf people
ask, "Would it matter?"
She might also want to contact one of the interpreting agencies in
the area (do a google search for the city and "interpreting
services") and ask the hiring director for a "pre-interview"
discussion about her qualifications and future possibilities for
working in the field.
In a message dated 2/27/2005 9:32:21 PM Pacific Standard
Time, email@example.com writes:
Hello Mr. Vicars,
I emailed you some time ago after ordering your ASL
l Unit I CD. I am really enjoying it , using it
along with the the other resources for my classes.
My question is one of a personal nature...just
trying to decide the right path to take. I am
teaching an ASL course at my church. Thanks to you
and your website, i think i have shapedthe class
where many thing s are discussed and covered. The
class is 3 hours in length and consists of 5 major
components: ASL Grammar, Deaf History, Deaf
Culture, Fingerspelling and Vocabulary/Activities.
The course is for ten weeks and those that take it
know the class is not a "ceramics" class although we
do have fun!
What 's the question? Exactly this - Do i continue
teaching this class or any others and not be
certified? I am preparing for certification, but
it's a process, and I feel i would like to offer
other classes outside ofthe church especially when
i'm not working over the summer. i am a memeber of
my state ASLTA and will become a member of the
natinal ASLTA soon. I attend workshops and seminars
given by ASLTA and the county college to keep my
skills up to par (and use your website too). I am
in contact with people who are deaf on a daily basis
(they are my 2nd family). Is is as important as i
make it to be certified? I think others may not
take the class as seriously as if i were, and
charging for the course may be a point of concern
for others if i am not certified. if you say go
ahead, how do I address this issue if it should
arise? (I am hearing)
P.S. Wow! I read your Bio! I thought I liked
school! You got me beat Man!
I'd be willing to bet that as of this writing (2005) the
vast majority of ASL teachers out there are not "certified"
in ASL. I teach at "Sac State" (California State
University, Sacramento). Here we have a dozen or so
teachers of ASL (mostly part timers). Only a few of us are
certified in ASL. I think a couple of the hearing ASL
teachers might have RID certification (but not "ASLTA"
I've been certified since back when ASLTA was called S.I.G.N. (Sign
Instructors Guidance Network). I applaud what they are
doing but ASLTA seems to have gone through some growing
pains and has a bit of a challenge regarding
their membership records. For example I've held the
Qualified Certification from them for years. But
recently they sent me a letter indicating I was provisional,
heh. Now I've got to send them a copy of my documentation
and get that straightened out. One of these days maybe I'll
have to get around to going for my "professional level."
But why? I won't get a raise. I don't need any more
letters or titles behind my name. My wife and kids won't
love me more if I do.
But that is my situation, not yours.
I remember years ago before I had all the degrees, and the
college position, and the website. I started teaching ASL
classes on Saturdays at my church. (I was in the same boat
as you!) I was wondering "how can I increase my business and
seem more professional?" I made it my passion to grow my
ASL business. Within a few years I was teaching more than I
could manage on my own. I hired my wife. Then I started
subcontracting out work to other teachers. If you're
interested in more information, I describe all of that in
great detail in my e-report "How to Make a Decent Living
Teaching ASL" available via my website bookstore (for a
measly ten bucks).
You asked whether you should continue teaching the church
class or any others and not be certified.
My response: Yes. Continue teaching. Also continue
progressing toward certification while you are teaching.
Certification is becoming more prevalent. [See my
email to Lori, below]
You state that you feel you would like to offer other
classes outside of the church--especially when you are not
working over the summer.
My response: Go for it.
Seems to me you are on the right track. You have started
small. You indicate that people who are deaf are your
"second family." You have been attending classes and
You won't be able to satisfy everyone. There will be
naysayers and people who criticize. Listen to what they
have to say, but only long enough to determine if there is
any merit to their comments. Usually there isn't. Then go
ahead and succeed at something you enjoy doing.
Dr. Vicars (Bill)
In a message dated 2/25/2005 11:45:46 AM Pacific
Standard Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Dear Dr. Vicars,
I am interested in learning more about the
ASL program. I already have a California
Teaching Credential. My question is…what do
I need to teach ASL in public schools in
California? Do I just need the certificate
or an actual ASL credential?
I recently saw a job advertisement for a
school district that needed a high school
ASL teacher and it said the requirements
were a valid California Teaching Credential,
or willingness to get one. I wasn’t sure if
that meant they wanted you to get the
teaching credential on top of having ASL
credentials, or vice versa. Of course when
I called the district office to get
information, like everywhere else I’ve
tried, I never am able to speak to an actual
person. I would really appreciate it if you
could help me with this information. I
would really like to pursue this as a
career, but am not sure exactly what is
needed to teach in public schools. Thank
you for your time and I hope to hear from
In February of 2004, the California Commission of
Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) established a new Single
Subject Credential in Languages other than English in
American Sign Language.
Prior to that there was no approved subject-matter
examination for a Single Subject Teaching Credential in
Commission staff, in conjunction with an expert panel of
ASL educators and National Evaluation Systems (NES), is
in the process of developing the
subject-specific content knowledge requirements for
beginning teachers for this new credential, the subject
matter, program standards, and the examination. This new
examination is scheduled to begin this Fall, (2005).
Which means, right now, today
, (2/25/05) to
teach ASL in California public schools you need to pass
the CBEST (California Basic Educational Skills Test) and
be able to demonstrate
"subject-matter competence" in ASL to the hiring
One way to verify
subject-matter competence in ASL would be to contact the
teacher education department at a California college or
university approved by the CCTC and request an
evaluation of your transcripts. After the evaluation of
your transcripts you would receive a signed
subject-matter equivalency letter or a list of classes
to be completed before the equivalency letter could be
issued. Depending on your prior coursework you may
need to take a U.S. Constitution course (or take a test
offered by the community colleges), pass the RICA:
Reading Instruction Competence Assessment, and also
fulfill CLAD: Cross-cultural, Language, and Academic
Development. Go to
the California Commission of Teacher Credentialing
http://www.ctc.ca.gov to find information fitting
your specific situation.
In a message dated 1/19/2005 7:15:31 PM Pacific Standard Time,
A funny thing happened to me and
I thought you'd appreciate it. I educate my children at home
and I was reviewing Spanish vocabulary for my first grader
in my preparations for the next day's lesson. As I went down
the list I found myself signing the words in my head to help
me remember the Spanish word. This surprised me because I am
not really fluent. I have learned many signed words and I
thought it was really funny that my subconscious went to ASL
and not English or a mental picture. I love to sign even
though I am hearing and plan to become an interpreter at
some point when my life affords me a little more time to
concentrate on my own studies.
Thank you again.
That is fascinating that your mind would associate a "target"
language with visually-based "target" language rather than your
native spoken language.
That sounds like a good topic for a research paper. The obvious
first "reason" would be that to associate the new information with
English you would have to process the sound of the Spanish word and
the sound of the English word consecutively (one
after the other). Instead you can recall the sound of the Spanish
word while concurently (at the same time) recalling
the sight and feel of the ASL concept.
To a person who asked about reverence in church meetings:
me first state that I agree reverence in worship is important.
What constitutes reverence however varies from culture to
I'm sure you would find Southern Black Worship ceremonies or
Torajan Funeral Ceremonies
to be "very" irreverent. On the other hand the people of
those cultures find deep satisfaction and spiritual meaning in
their ceremonies. They would view a traditional white
Anglo-Saxon Protestant or Catholic ceremony as boring or
outright distressing. This is because of cultural differences.
The norms, mores, and customs of a people extend into their
As you know, one of the stronger norms for deaf people is to
travel from afar to gather together and chat. This is culturally
ingrained behavior. As a hearing person, you can pretty much
chat with anyone you'd like, but the Deaf get chat time only
when they make a special trip to be together with others of
their own kind. It is an expectation.
Now, you can say, "Well we are going to change that
Or you can say, "Hmmm, how can we consider Deaf Culture and come
up with an environment that works well for the Deaf that they
are proud of and want to be part of."
The fact is my wife and I attend a deaf church to be in a deaf
environment, not to be in an interpreted environment. We could
get that at our local church...which is within walking distance
and would save me having to buy a new car. I don't drive all
the way to the deaf church so I can sit in a hearing worship
meeting with an interpreter. I could get that already and save
I think it is important for hearing leaders that have influence
on deaf churches to consider what differences might exist
between "reverent Hearing worship" and "reverent Deaf worship"
as you prepare your lesson on reverence.
ADA and Language Testing
Note: The following is not to be
considered legal advice. Consult your attorney regarding
legal matters. Even though this situation is based on a true
story, individuals in the following discussion are
fictional. Certain details have been modified to
protect their privacy.
student requested time-and-a-half for all of the quizzes in
one of my classes.
I explained to him that I might consider having him do some
alternate form of testing but that I thought it would be
good to have him take the first quiz (out of 27 total tests)
and see how he did. Then if he wasn't getting a passing
grade we could possibly use a set of video CD tests that I
use with my distance education students.
The next day he again indicated that he would be expecting
I replied in an
looks like you are asking for an accommodation, we need
to look at what constitutes a reasonable accommodation
for your disability.
As I'm sure you are aware, there are a number of laws
and accepted guidelines for the implementation of
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans
with Disabilities Act.
example. Suppose a deaf person were to go to a bar with
his friends he might find it difficult to see
their signing. Even though the bar qualifies as a
public accommodation it would be unreasonable to ask the
bar owner to turn up the lights in his bar because this
would fundamentally change the nature of the
establishment (it would impact the other patrons
This has been born out in the courts already.
let's examine your situation.
appears you are asking for "extended time."
asking me to slow down my signing while giving
Are you asking for more time to write your answers?
life a conversation with another individual they will be
signing to you at about one sign per .3 seconds (or
faster). In the classroom this will be much slower,
perhaps one sign per one or two seconds. To comprehend
a sentence means you will need to be able to understand
signs at a reasonable pace.
It would be
unreasonable to require an extension of time between
signs because this would fundamentally change the nature
of the activity and it would impact the other students
All of the
exams in my class involve signing at a reasonable pace
and then writing down in English or gloss what was
I give 27
tests in that class. Each test takes about 15 minutes.
Two of the tests take 30 minutes. so we are talking
about 15 hours of normal testing time. Which is to say,
literally 1/3 of my classroom time is testing. Now...if
you request additional time between questions to write
down your answers due to a cognitive processing
deficiency (rather than a physical impairment of writing
ability) that would indicate that you are essentially
unable to develop the skill of processing signed
language at a rate which would allow you to have a
signed conversation. No to mention that increasing the
amount of time between questions by 30 seconds would
change over 270 minutes of class time from teaching time
to time spent by the other 25 student waiting for you
to process the answers.
As far as ADA goes and accommodation: Extending the
time for 27
math tests is reasonable. Such tests
are asynchronous. By this I mean the time requirement
is not tied to the other students and the teacher. Time
is also, for the most part, irrelevant in math tests.
Because in real life, taking longer to do math doesn't
affect the outcome. You can normally take a long time
to do a math problem and the answer is still the same.
The fact that it took you three times longer than the
next student has no bearing on the correctness of your
answer. And it has no bearing on the other student
because he finished and left 40 minutes ago. But to
make 25 other students wait 40 additional minutes (or
270 minutes) would be unreasonable.
have a disability that prevents you from writing a
sentence in a reasonable amount of time? My
daughter has no knuckles and would thus need more
time to write or type. If your fingers work well
enough to learn ASL, I imagine that "dexterity" is
not an issue.
understanding from your paper is that you have a
Such being the case, a
accommodation for short term memory
loss would consist of "not testing you
within a short term" of having covered new
material. The accommodation would be
to allow you sufficient time between
instruction and testing to practice and
process the new information.
The question then becomes what is a
reasonable amount of time for someone with a
short term memory loss to study sufficiently
in order to recognize it the next time they
An average student can study sufficiently by
having 2 hours of study time per 1 hour of
class. (Actually I believe that is grossly
overstated and that a student could do very
well on even a half hour of study per hour
in class). Suppose we said you need an
extension of three times the study time of a
That would, at most, be 6 hours of study
between learning and testing.
Since our class meets every other day, this
amount of time is already being provided to
suggestion is for you to take the first quiz and then we
can look at how you do.
If you feel
you did not do as well as you'd like, then bring to me a
record of your time spent studying, (indicating which
hours and how many hours you invested studying) and we
will analyze your situation again to determine what
accommodation best fits your needs. For example, the
reasonable accommodation might be for you to spend
time studying in-between classes. Or if you need more
time to learn and process the information it might be
reasonable to assign you an "I" at the end of the
semester so you can re-sit the class until you are able
to appropriately produce and recognize ASL.
He didn't like this idea and still wanted "extended"
time for the tests and took the matter back to his
advisor at the Students with Disabilities office.
with a letter from that office indicating his status as
a disabled individual and his "right" to accommodation.
I went ahead and contacted the advisor. I had a
protracted conversation with him and it
looks like the student will be using the special set of
video CDs (that I developed for the distance education
version of my course) for testing and this solution will
probably be satisfactory to everyone.
I do want to
discuss something that the student wrote to me though.
said, "... because as it was explained to me yesterday
at [the Disabled Students Office] I was
extended time and that it was
my option whether or not
I wanted to take the first quiz without the extended
that a disabled student is automatically "entitled"
to a particular testing accommodation causes me to raise
an eyebrow because according to my understanding and
research, whether or not an accommodation must be made
depends on a number of factors.
Two of the
main factors considered by the courts are:
alteration." Does the requested
accommodation fundamentally alter the nature of the
testing? If so, the instructor is not required to make
the modification. (See section III-4.2100, pasted below
for your convenience).
you'll read Section III-4.6100 of the
Title III Technical Assistance Manual, you'll see
that it states: "A private entity offering an
examination covered by this section is responsible
for selecting and administering the examination in a
place and manner that ensures that the examination
accurately reflects an individual's aptitude or
achievement level or other factor the examination
purports to measure, rather than reflecting the
individual's impaired sensory, manual, or speaking
skills (except where
those skills are the factors that the examination
purports to measure)."
the information in parenthetical expression? A
student may not ask to be excepted from the aptitude
or skill that the test is designed to measure. Deaf
people sign and fingerspell at a certain pace. A
"receptive ASL fluency" test is designed to
determine if a student can recognize and process the
meaning of a series of signs at a certain pace. To
slow that pace down (i.e., provide time and a half
for a student to "figure out" what a sentence
fundamentally alter the nature of
burden." Does the requested
accommodation cause an undue burden? An instructor
is not required to provide auxiliary aids and
services if an undue burden or a fundamental
alteration would result. (See section III-4.3100,
pasted below for your convenience). One student
requiring an instructor devote after-class time to
administer twenty-seven (27) one-on-one performance
tests at one-and-a-half extended time (that are
normally given in-class) could arguably present an
undue burden. It would be different if these were
written tests that the student could take at a
writing center, and that could be corrected by a
scantron, but these are not. The tests we are
referring to are receptive and expressive ASL. These
tests would require 100 percent of the instructors
attention and participation (either receptive or
expressive) for the full amount of time.
General. A public accommodation must reasonably modify
its policies, practices, or procedures to avoid
discrimination. If the public accommodation can
demonstrate, however, that a modification would
fundamentally alter the
nature of the goods, services,
facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations it
provides, it is not
required to make the modification.
General. A public accommodation is required to provide
auxiliary aids and services that are necessary to ensure
equal access to the goods, services, facilities,
privileges, or accommodations that it offers,
unless an undue burden or a
fundamental alteration would result.
Here is a
sample illustration paraphrased from the technical
guide, "Suppose Steve who is blind, visits an
electronics store to purchase a clock radio and wishes
to inspect the merchandise information cards next to the
floor models in order to decide which one to buy.
Reading the model information to Steve should be
adequate to ensure effective communication. If Steve is
unreasonably demanding or is shopping when the store is
extremely busy, it may be an undue burden to spend
extended periods of time reading price and product
Note, I was extremely tempted to say, "no" to the
student's request for an accommodation and embrace the
ramifications. And I might just do so in the future if
this happens again.
Please bear in mind as I present the assertions
below that my foremost consideration is for
providing a good learning experience for my
students. I have already, at my initiative,
provided the student a separate set of testing
materials and have made other arrangements to
provide for the student's needs. I am pro-student.
With that in mind...
What I'm asserting is that a student is NOT
entitled to an accommodation that results in
the fundamental alteration of a main factor in a
test of speaking skills.
I believe this is very clear in the ADA guidelines.
To ask for "more processing time" on a test of
speaking or listening fluency fundamentally alters
As I'm sure you know, a student is not entitled
to an unreasonable accommodation. It is my
assertion that one student requesting a
specific accommodation that requires an additional
33% workload for a faculty member is unreasonable.
Which is to say, if an instructor normally spends 45
hours teaching a class and is requested to spend 60
hours teaching that same class--that is
I do understand it is good to resolve such matters
with the [Students with Disabilities] Office. (Which
I did and I am happy to be flexible and find
workable solutions.) In addition to being a nice
way to go through life, "discussing things and
finding workable solutions" is a way to say "settle
out of court."
Now, here's my point:
Suppose the instructor decided to not change
the nature of his test, and the student "demanded"
time-and-a-half on "27 instructor-administered
receptive-language-fluency tests," and it were to go
to court--it is my assertion that the
instructor would win.
I realize this isn't the goal. I realize we don't
want court cases. We want "win/win" relationships.
I'm pursuing this though because it is an ongoing
issue that will not go away: Extended time testing
gives an advantage to accommodated students that
leads to overprediction of future
performance. (Documentation available.)
This whole topic is only an issue because words like
"reasonable" and "undue" are open to
The only interpretation with teeth is that which is
provided by the courts.
To that end I've been looking for court cases
addressing the issue of "reasonable accommodation
and language proficiency testing."
If you happen to know of any existing court cases
covering this specific issue, please do
forward them my way.
In a message dated 2/1/2005 9:15:39 AM Pacific Standard Time,
Love your site. My daughters have taken up signing and my boys are
following them. Interestingly, my daughters are 5 and 2, and my
are 10 and 8!!! Yes, the 5 year old loves ASL and is "teaching" her
siblings. The 2 year old is signing many things...and she isn't
talking yet. We wish we had known about this with the others...none
my kids ever "really" spoke until 3!!!
Anyway, I am going through your tour and noticed a broken, or
link. When I click on NEXT on the page showing the sign for SINGLE,
keep being brought back to SINGLE. I had to return to the TOUR page
click on DIVORCED.
Again, that's as far as I've gotten...I love your course and want to
make sure others don't have problems.
Thanks for letting me know about that broken link.
I appreciate it.
I've fixed it now.
In a message dated 1/30/2005 10:09:44 AM Pacific Standard Time,
Thank you for sharing the students' and teachers' comments and
questions. It is interesting to
see their perspective.
been teaching ASL since 1960. At that time there were almost no
resources, so I adopted the book called $5 a day in France. I
just followed the format of the book. It was a challenging
experience that time.
I would like to make an announcement about 2 incoming ASL
weekends, one in downtown Sacramento in early May and the other
in Occidental in early June. Is it possible to make such
announcement in your website?
Joanne Jauregui, ASL instructor, Ohlone College, Fremont
COMMUNI-VISION, INC. ANNOUNCES THAT IT WILL SPONSOR 2 TOTAL ASL
IMMERSION WEEKENDS: #1...LOCATION: OCCIDENTAL, CA WHERE
BEAUTIFUL REDWOOD TREES ARE EVERYWHERE. DATE: MAY 7-8,
#2...LOCATION: DOWNTOWN SACRAMENTO, CA DATE: JUNE 4-5, 2005
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT JOANNE JAUREGUI AT email@example.com.
In a message dated 3/30/2005 2:59:37 AM Pacific Standard Time,
Dear Dr. William Vicars
My Name is Michael Nsofwa I was Born in Zambia - Africa.
In 1985 I lost my my left leg in a road traffic accident, in
1990 I was enrolled to study electronics at NVRC which is a
college for disabled people and at that I interacted with a lot
of deaf people almost all my best collage mates were Deaf
In 1999 I was offered a place to study for a degree course (BSc
in I.T) at the University of Portsmouth here in England. I have
now graduated from the University and I am working as an IT
administrator but I still want to change my career to a Sign
Language Tutor or Interpreter now my big challenge is that if I
study BSL (british sign language) here in the UK would it be
possible for me to come switch to ASL (american sign language)
without much difficulties if I choose to come and teach Sign
Language in America or is it possible to Study both the ASL &
BSL at the same time. Please I really need your advise.
Thank you for your time.
If you study BSL and then later move to America you will need to retrain
yourself to the ASL signs. It will be like learning to snowboard in the
mountains and then switching to "surfboarding" in the ocean. The skills
you develop for snowboarding are, to some degree, transferable. But on
the other hand, your old snowboarding habits and assumptions will also
cause you to swallow quite a bit of water as you attempt to "ride the
Similarly, the skills you develop while learning BSL are also
transferable (visual attentiveness, manual dexterity, etc.).
There are considerable differences between the two languages and you may
find yourself mixing the two unintentionally. The more you immerse
yourself in the second language the faster you will make the switch.
On a positive note, I have a several friends (Deaf) who are able to
switch between BSL and ASL seemingly without effort--just as a skilled
speaker of both English and Spanish can switch between spoken languages.
So take heart, it can be done.
American Sign Language University ™
Lifeprint.com © William Vicars