Twenty-three years ago, I delivered a speech at Toastmasters about introducing basic American Sign Language (ASL) into school curriculums.
It was in response to a news story about a man who was in jail for being drunk and disorderly. Unfortunately, he was actually experiencing some kind of medical episode and was unable to convey that to the officers.
My point was that if we all knew basic words, letters and numbers, we would be able to communicate with people in trouble. For example, if the man had signed “sick” or “doctor”, and if the officers understood ASL, they could have got him the help he needed.
I was fortunate to have someone from Deaf Centre Manitoba attend my presentation to demonstrate what I was saying in ASL. She helped me make the case that not only was ASL useful in that way, but also what a truly beautiful language it is.
Which is why yesterday, I was excited to catch the tail end of an interview by Matt Galloway on CBC’s The Current about Ontario introducing ASL and Langue des signes quebecoise (LSQ) into their secondary school curriculum. If you’re interested in listening to the program, click here and and if you want to take a course here in Manitoba, contact the Deaf Centre here.
Of course, I would go one step further and teach basic words, letters and numbers in primary school and even earlier. Yes, many places already do this, but not everywhere. Widespread knowledge and use of ASL by would not only help the rest of us connect with those who are hearing impaired, but also those with special needs, or who for one reason or another are unable to use the spoken word to be understood.
Here’s to anything that will help us to better communicate with more people using one of the most beautiful languages we have – ASL.