Learning the importance of American Sign Language

Working at a campground, I meet a lot of different people – retirees taking a cross-country trip, families trying to bond by prying their kids away from the internet for a few days or even 20-year-olds trying to “find themselves” and connect with nature.
However, the best people I have come across are the deaf.
When I was a sophomore in college, I decided to take an American Sign Language (ASL) course to broaden my understanding of the deaf community and be able to communicate with them.
Granted, I did not learn enough to be fluent in ASL, but the reward I got was worth so much.
Many deaf people I met assumed that people outside of their community do not know sign language, so I was often met with surprise and gratitude when I was able to use sign language.
To a lot of them it was such a grand gesture, but it really should not be.
I think that sign language is just as important as any language someone might learn and to an extent, everyone should know key “words” to be able to “talk” on a base level.
I went to an event held at the Cleveland Museum of Art for a weekend last fall that was for the deaf and deaf-blind.
It was completely life-changing to see a deaf-blind person experience art for the first time by feeling the cracks and crevices of an ancient statue and to see the deaf community feel at home in a public space.
On one of the tours a deaf woman signed to me, asking me a question I was unsure of, and I had to tell her I was just learning ASL.
Her response was what I got from most people there – that everyone has to start somewhere, and she was grateful I was taking the time to become part of their community.
I quickly learned how misinformed I was about deaf culture and started watching vlogs from deaf YouTubers and reading articles about ASL in American culture.
A stigma often held is that being deaf is a disability and something that should try to be “fixed,” but that is not the case.
Just like anyone who speaks a different language, deaf citizens should not be forced to speak when they were born not to.
That being said, not knowing sign language is an issue.
It is seen as a privilege rather than a necessity to know sign language if you are not deaf.
Communication is a two-way street though and for everyone to “voice” their opinions, they need the chance to be heard. Without knowing sign language, we are being prejudice and unfair toward a big part of our community.
That being said, I hope anyone who reads this considers taking a sign language class or attempts to learn the basics on their own.


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