Wednesday, May 12, 2004

letter to editor about ASL classes

I wrote a letter to the editor and it was published in the papers May 7th. I thought I'd share it with anyone who's interested in American Sign Language.

I am 16, deaf, and a sophomore at Kelly Walsh High School. My interpreter, Jo Otterholt and I are working on a project together. We would like to get American Sign Language (ASL) accepted in high schools as a foreign language class. Sure, I already am learning ASL at school, but I won't get a foreign language credit for it, and that's not right. Casper College and the University of Wyoming accepts ASL as a foreign language class and both even offer classes for credit which fulfills the foreign language requirement! I have talked with Dr. Jim Lowham for a little bit, and he believes that the state wouldn't accept ASL as a foreign language, but the district might. About 27 states accept ASL as a foreign language and Wyoming is not one of them.

There are many states that do not offer ASL in high schools but they do offer the classes for credit at the colleges/universities like in Wyoming, Delaware, Colorado, Arizona, New Hampshire, and New Mexico. If the colleges accept ASL as a foreign language, why not the high schools? American Sign Language IS the third most commonly used language in the United States! There are classes for Spanish, German, Japanese, Russian, etc. but none for ASL in high schools. When are these students ever going to use German or Japanese in their lives? ASL or a sign language of some kind is ALWAYS being used somewhere.

You'll find deaf people everywhere, like hospitals, police stations, dentists, stores, restaurants, anywhere and they'll be using sign language to communicate. How can the deaf person communicate if someone who works in that certain place doesn't know sign language? The deaf person and the employee would have to exchange written notes and that takes quite some time to do. If the employee knew sign language or ASL, then things would go a lot quicker for both. Not all deaf people can speak well, and some have poor English skills.

American Sign Language is not just for deaf people. Hearing people use it as well. There IS a shortage of sign language/ASL interpreters. It would be nice if more people learned ASL and some became interpreters of the deaf. Deaf people need interpreters at school or someplace else like the doctor's office, hospitals, police station, etc.

My mom, Jo, and I are working on starting a petition and we plan on having students sign it. I am very sure that there are many students that would like to learn American Sign Language, but they can't since it isn't offered in high schools. The staff at Star Lane Center are supportive of this project as well as Mr. Larry Allison at Kelly Walsh High School, and they believe ASL should be accepted as a foreign language.

Getting American Sign Language to be accepted as a foreign language in high schools may not happen right away, but hopefully it'll be accepted for the younger students who have to have a foreign language credit in order to graduate. No matter where they go, they'll always find a use for this language since it is needed everywhere, and things will go a lot easier for the deaf person if more people knew ASL or a sign language of some kind.

I should have the petition typed up and printed out tomorrow and I'll be passing it around throughout the town until May 22. I'm leaving May 22 for a 2 week vacation. I may continue with the petition through the summer too. ASL SHOULD be accepted!!!!!!!!!! Many of my relatives and friends and even teachers are very supportive of this!

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