Ableism. A noun meaning “discrimination in favor of able-bodied people.” This isn’t me saying that my school is run by a bunch of ableists, this is me stating facts of life. About 2 or 3 out of every 1,000 children are born with detectable hearing loss in one or both ears. Extensive research has estimated that between 500,000 to 2,000,000 people in the U.S alone are completely deaf and around half of those people completely rely on the use of sign language. Although it isn’t exactly a foreign language, American Sign Language (ASL) is just as important as Spanish, French, German, or any other language taught in our school yet, it has never been offered to me. Why is that?I believe that ASL should be added to our school’s list of language electives. I am almost as likely to meet a person that can only sign back and forth as you are to meet a person that only speaks Spanish or Chinese.
Here are a few common misconceptions that help me prove my point:
-- “Deaf people can read lips, as long as I speak directly to them and pronounce my words well.”
FALSE / reading lips is a difficult skill to acquire, and even the best lip readers can only catch around 25-30% of what is being said.
-- “All deaf people are taught to speak or know how to speak.”
FALSE / Although a large percentage of the deaf can speak, not all deaf people can speak or understand proper english.
-- “Deaf people can just write notes to communicate if they cannot speak.”
FALSE / For most deaf people, english is a second language, so they only have around a 4th grade level of english comprehension.
-- “All deaf people are born deaf.”
FALSE / Not all deaf people are born deaf, in fact, a large percentage of the deaf population became deaf through sickness or other medical reasons such as infection.
These misconceptions and others are why we need to be taught ASL. Many people may say that it can’t be done or that highschool is too old to begin learning. Well, research shows that people can learn sign language as easily as they can learn any foreign language.
I say that ASL should be offered at my school as an elective just like Spanish, French, or German because it would be an incredible opportunity and because I, and many others, believe that ASL is needed just as much as any other language. I know that this petition won’t make much of a difference and that there’s always the trouble of finding a good teacher that is willing to teacher highschoolers, but I thought that maybe I could get the schoolboard to at least start thinking about the idea of adding ASL to our electives.