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White House To Respond To Disability Petition


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A grass-roots effort calling on the U.S. government to formally recognize American Sign Language is poised to get an official response from the Obama administration.

More than 29,000 people from across the country signed a petition on the White House website this fall seeking to gain stature for the visual language. President Barack Obama’s administration has pledged to provide an official reply to any petition on the site that attracts at least 25,000 signatures within 30 days, a threshold that the sign language petition met earlier this month.

While some states allow schools to provide credit for sign language classes, recognition of the communication method remains limited, according to the petition. Sign language is not listed as an option on U.S. Census forms and some children who are deaf still struggle to access sign language education, supporters say.

“For more than a hundred years, American Sign Language (ASL) has been persecuted as a ‘lesser’ language. It is a homegrown and complete language that has survived efforts to wipe it out,” the petition says. “Yet today, ASL is still considered ‘foreign’ and not given the respect and protection it needs.”

Adrean Clark, who is deaf and started the petition, said that federal recognition would be one step toward alleviating the stigma often associated with sign language.

“We want to see awareness of American Sign Language spread and become a good, important part of our country,” she said in a statement on the website of a new group known as ASL for America. “I hope that President Obama and his administration will now begin the steps of formally recognizing American Sign Language — a true American language.”

White House officials say that any petition that receives enough signatures will be reviewed by the appropriate policy experts, but response times vary depending on the topic.

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Comments (6 Responses)

  1. Tacitus says:

    I wasn’t expecting good news today. I am not deaf but I am happy to join in, and all people with disabilities should do so.

  2. Barbara says:

    This has very broad policy implications. If ASL is classified as a non-English language, there are many benefits that would follow. The census would record the number of ASL speakers, and all of the benefits that apply to people with “limited English proficiency,” would apply to people who speak ASL….and there are many of those benefits. Right now, the government considers ASL equal to English in terms of policies. It does not keep track of ASL speakers as it does with other people with limited English proficiency. Instead of benefits for people with limited English proficiency, ASL speakers must rely on disability laws and they do not receive the same federal benefits and consideration as other people with limited English proficiency.

  3. AKD says:

    This is WONDERFUL! Many states recognize ASL as a language for public education purposes, as do many private schools. But this is absolutely something that should be done on a national level, not state-by-state. Go Obama! Please sign this into law, and follow in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, who signed the charter for Gallaudet University to become a reality back in 1864.

  4. BH says:

    My daughter was recently diagnosed with a hearing loss. Please elaborate on what benefits there would be for people with “limited English proficiency” as my daughter also has speech and language difficulties that predate the hearing loss and is learning both to sign and to use an augmentative communication device.

  5. Denise says:

    As an ASL interpreter for over 20 years, recognizing ASL by the Federal government would help end the discrimination against this unique language. It is a language that belongs to a minority people, a sub-culture, right here in the United States. A people with their own culture, values and language. Too many universities do not recognize ASL as a language. Even those colleges that do, the ASL Department is usually not recognized as a part of the foreign language department. There is plenty of research that validates that ASL is a unique language with its own syntax and grammar that is very different than English. It’s time to recognize the uniqueness of our country with its richness of variety of languages and people. This should not be viewed as a threat to English only policies or education.

  6. Jack Kesey says:

    ASL is here forever!!!

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