Hello ASL Heroes!
In a message dated 3/16/2006 8:01:56 A.M. Pacific Standard
Time, cbenn@.org writes:
Hi Bill- I'm reading through your information on Deaf
culture, and I've talked with a previous sign instructor
about Deaf culture. I looked at your comment about the Deaf
Culture Police, and certain methods of gaining a person's
attention being unacceptable from a hearing person. I also
remember an incident many years ago in which a Deaf person
approached me, was signing to me trying to communicate
something, and having had NO ASL experience at that time, I
(not realizing what a no-no it was) handed the person a
piece of paper to write it down so I could figure out what
she was trying to tell me. The person became furious, then
waved her hands at me and stomped off. (I know why now).
It seems to me (an outsider) that individuals who are Deaf
have a huge intolerance for hearing individuals, and seem to
have a real prejudice when it comes to accommodating a
hearing person's differences. Hearing individuals seem to
be almost shunned. Is this a correct perception? It
really seems as though there is a strong resistance in the
Deaf Community to accommodating a hearing person's "ASL
disability" or "deaf culture disability".
First of all, you seem to be a very intelligent, caring individual.
I applaud your expedition into the Deaf World. My comments below may
seem sharp, but are meant to be so only in the sense that a surgeons
scalpel is intended to be sharp. The surgeon himself has no desire
to cause pain to the patient, but rather to deal with the
underlying issue in an efficient, effective manner.
Here are my thoughts on the topic:
You use loaded words like "intolerance, shunned, and prejudice" to
refer to Deaf behavior.
You then use mitigating words like "differences" to refer to Hearing
Deaf people prefer to be with other Deaf people for many reasons,
the chief among them being the ability to communicate at high
Imagine yourself in a sports car on a multi-lane highway. Now
imagine it is a 75 mph zone but in every lane, driving side by side,
there are slow-pokes doing 30 miles per hour. How would you feel
after just a few moments of having to drive behind these people?
Now imagine having to commute to work everyday there and back behind
these slow pokes? Now imagine they are doing 15 mph instead of 30.
Now imagine they frequently break down and ask you to tow them to
All you want to do is get to work and get home and you'd like to do
it at full highway speeds. Can you imagine the frustration?
Now, imagine one of the lanes frees up and starts moving at 75 miles
per hour. Would you hang around behind the slowpoke, or would you
hastily move away from the slowpoke and get into the fast lane? It
isn't that you have anything against the slowpoke. You don't really
know him. You just want to get to where you are going and getting
in the fast lane is the least frustrating, most enjoyable way of
getting to your destination.
It is the same for Deaf people every day of their lives. They are
surrounded by Hearing people and their slow-poke signing. Sure, we
tend to avoid you, but not because we hate you. We avoid you in the
same way you get out from behind the slowpoke on the highway. It is
Another example is a bee or wasp. How do you react around wasps?
You tend to avoid them because they can (and sometimes do) sting
you. If you are sitting at the kitchen table near a closed window
and a wasp comes up to the window and buzzes against the glass how
do you react? You get uncomfortable don't you? You feel
uncomfortable even though the window is closed and it is totally
irrational to think the wasp could break the window and sting you.
It is the same for many Deaf people. We have been stung by hearing
con-artists, mechanics, contractors, and medical professionals. And
maybe not us personally, but we know of others who have been stung.
And just the fear of getting stung is enough to cause us Deaf people
to behave the way we do around Hearing people.
I need to state this very clearly: It is absurdly easier for a
Hearing person to learn to sign than it is for a Deaf person to
learn to talk.
This fact seems lost on many Hearing people. They expect us to
accommodate them. That is like expecting "Interstate Highway 5" to
slow down to accommodate bicycles. That is absurd. If you want to get on the highway you
should speed up...not the other way around. If you are incapable of
driving at highway speeds, content yourself to driving around town
at 30mph (attending deaf events and sitting on the edges doing more
watching than signing). I have a bike. I often bike to work. I
don't label motorists as prejudicial and resistant to accommodating
me when they speed past at much higher speeds. I realize my place
on the road and I enjoy the ride for the exercise.
If I want to be accepted on the road I have to invest in a faster
vehicle. If Hearing people want to be accepted in the Deaf Community
they need to invest in ASL classes, videos, lurking time, and
Consider how medical doctors feel when they go to a party or to
church. Everyone and their dog comes up to them and starts listing
off symptoms for some free medical advice. So what do doctors do?
They get unlisted phone numbers.
Do you label doctors as prejudiced because they say, "Let's schedule
you an appointment at the office so I can run a few tests" (instead
of helping you right there at the party). They don't want to waste
their party time on you. They want to go chat with their friends
and have a good time. Do you label them as impatient because they
don't want to talk to you in that circumstance and want to be paid
for their knowledge?
If you want a Deaf person to be patient with your slow signing, you
could simply PAY
one of us to be patient with you. (That works really well,
heh.) Hire a tutor.
Okay, now on to a separate topic: You state that handing a deaf
person a piece of paper to write something down is a "no-no." Who
told you that? I don't think there is anything wrong in general with
handing a Deaf person a piece of paper and pencil.
While it is likely the Deaf person "stomped off" in frustration, it
is also possible that there are other reasons. Maybe she couldn't
write very well or at least couldn't write the particular concept
she had in mind and was thus embarrassed?
The Deaf person approached you, not the other way around. You were
innocently trying to communicate via a time-tested approach.
In a message dated 4/1/2006 11:51:30 AM Pacific Standard
Time, robertcgro writes:
...we can't assume that the majority of Hearing people
could learn to Sign any easier than the majority of Deaf
people could learn to speak. Some will find it easier
than others, some impossible, and some inbetween.
According to dictionary.com "ease" refers to freedom
from difficulty, hardship, or effort.
Is it more difficult and/or does it require more effort
for a Deaf person to learn to speak than for a Hearing
person to learn to sign?
Well, let us first consider if we were to take two
hearing people and blindfold one of them, would the one
who could see have an "absurdly" easier time learning
sign language than the person wearing the blindfold?
Now, if we were to take two hearing people and place ear
plugs in the ears of one of them, would the one without
the ear plugs have an easier time learning a second
spoken language than the person wearing the ear plugs?
If two individuals are learning a second language and
one of the individuals is granted full access via his
senses to the second language and the other individual
is not granted access or granted only minimal access to
the second language through his senses, it is quite
arguable that the person with full access to the
second language will have an easier time
Hearing people have full access to sign language via
their eyes whereas Deaf people have only restricted
access to spoken languages via their ears.
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This workshop is under the direction of Dr. Bill Vicars, an ASLTA (American
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In a message dated 2/12/2006 10:29:24 P.M. Pacific Standard Time,
I'm commenting on the post by Aylene Gracie on your site regarding
the sign for Canada. I'm not sure what she is seeing, but the only
sign used for Canada is the one you have pictured, though we don't
grab the shirt at all. The interpretation on CPAC is LSQ - Langue
des Signes Québécoise - and not ASL but, as far as I know, the sign
for Canada is the same. I'm a sign language interpreter and have
worked with Deaf people for approximately 20 years and this is the
only sign I've ever seen for Canada.
Thanks for the note. You are right...in everyday
conversation the sign "Canada" doesn't "grab" the
shirt. What a fascinating example of "motherese / teacher talk" in
action. When teaching Hearing students, we ASL teachers often
over-emphasize our signs to help the students recognize the salient
features and or to function as a pneumonic device (memory helper) to
sink it in.
The phrase "The Canadian Mounted Police always get their man" comes to
mind. The grabbing of the shirt is iconic of the "Mountie" grabbing the
That is sort of like when ASL teachers show the signs Monday, Tuesday,
Wednesday, etc. "palm forward" to their hearing classes, but do them
palm up/back when chatting with their friends.
Now I'll have to put that on my to do list to go back and redo that
In a message dated 3/23/2006 6:19:07 PM Pacific Standard Time,
I am in college and taking ASL I
I was talking with my instructor (who is Deaf), and I was asking him
about the “ghost location,” as in when one signs to the right for Bill
and to the left for Bob when they are not really there. It’s hard to
explain, but I thought that the perspective of the signer and the
“listener” were reversed, like when giving directions. I now understand
why they are not
reversed. I mean, Bill is where he is and Bob is where he is; but my
Instructor signed “direction” to me, trying to explain (when I didn’t
understand it) that the “ghost” people are the same perspective for the
signer and the listener. Now I can’t find the sign “direction”
anywhere. Not in my
dictionaries, not online, not anywhere. What sign would one use to give
the same meaning? Obviously, it’s not a sign that translates from ASL to
English. This is driving me crazy because I am trying to remember what
he signed. If this makes any sense to you, would you mind sending me an
explanation and/or the sign a Deaf person who uses ASL would use for
I have a question about becoming an interpreter/translator of ASL. I
know a little sign my father was born deaf and taught us kids some
sign, He could speak very well so only when we need to sign he
would. My wife and I have a child with autism that we sign to as
well. I am at a point I would like to
become an interpreter. Do you know of any programs that I could do
over the internet or local to Ohio.
Thank you for your time
In a message dated 2/5/2006 12:25:26 PM Pacific Standard Time,
Question: Your website seems to be free - at least for the
casual learner - but what kind of quality can I expect
for that kind of price?
I don't mean to be rude, but I believe in directness when I have
a question like this.
Here's my bio and qualifications:
The site is far from perfect and I'll forever be tweaking it.
It is the same curriculum I use in my college classes at California
State University, Sacramento.
Note to readers: In the old days, there was a saying called "Looking a
gift horse in the mouth."
Kyle's question is a perfect example of that in modern times.
n a message dated 2/6/2006 9:45:48 A.M. Pacific Standard Time,
Found your contact info while surfing through the Web. We
are in need of a person who can do American Sign Language to
interpret for our client who needs to meet with their doctor
in his office in Norfolk, Virginia next week on Wednesday
morning at 9:00 a.m. Compensation will be paid to this
Can you help me find someone who can do this assignment?
This person does NOT have to be "certified" to do this
TNB Language Service
Try www.rid.org and look for their "find an interpreter" link.
thanks for your recommendation. This site gave me many people to
contact. Hopefully, we'll be successful in finding someone through this
Best to you!
TNB Language Service
In a message dated 3/1/2006 2:03:26 P.M. Pacific Standard Time,
My name is Zahra and I am an ASL II student at Colleyville
Heritage High School in Colleyville, Texas. I am a senior
in high school and will be graduating in May. I was
wondering if there are any jobs available or even an
intership dealing with ASl. I am really interested and want
to minor in ASL when i go to college. If you have any ideas
or anything else in mind please let me know,
Thanks a lot,
You can find quite a few jobs by searching Google for word
<<qualifications "american sign language" application>>
The idea is to use words that show up in typical position
Then scan the results and pick the ones that look promising.