Contact and Communication for The Deaf
American Sign Language is an unspoken language based on the English language that consists of hand gestures called signs. For those who are deaf or hearing-impaired, American Sign Language is a way of life. Often, when a person cannot hear, sign language may be their most common means of communication with fellow deaf people as well as the hearing people in their lives. For many others, however, communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing may be a new concept. Learning American Sign Language is an excellent way to begin communicating with those with hearing impairments. Even for those who do not personally know anyone who is hearing impaired, knowing American Sign Language is an exceptional skill to have.
When a person begins to learn American Sign Language, the first step is generally to learn the alphabet. The American Sign Language alphabet consists of the same letters that exist within the English alphabet. For each of the 26 letters, there is an American Sign Language hand gesture that portrays it. Learning some of the letters of the alphabet in American Sign Language is fairly simple for those who are already familiar with English, as quite a few letters are signed in a manner that looks the same as the letter is written. The letters "C", "L," and "O," for instance, are usually easily remembered and signed. Other letters, such as "Q" and "H," may take more practice to identify and sign correctly.
- Sign Language Alphabet Flashcards: This page provides various free printable resources for use by teachers and parents who wish to introduce sign language at a young age.
- American Sign Language Alphabet Song Video: In this video, the American Sign Language alphabet is taught.
- Finger-Spelling Alphabet: Finger-spelling is not practical for conversations in American Sign Language but can be a helpful backup for those just starting out with ASL.
- ASL Finger-Spelling Chart (PDF): This helpful chart is an excellent way to ensure that the American Sign Language alphabet is being properly signed.
Numbers in American Sign Language are simply a matter of counting fingers from zero to five; however, the process requires some practice and studying when the numbers get higher. Some numbers that could easily be shown using both hands are actually signed differently than many people expect. For instance, the number nine is signed in American Sign Language by placing the index finger and the thumb downward, keeping the other three fingers in the air versus simply using two hands to show nine fingers. Utilizing number charts and watching videos is the best way to learn how to sign numbers to those who are deaf to ensure that they understand what is being communicated to them.
- ASL Numbers: This resource acts as an interactive learning tool for those wishing to learn to sign numbers in American Sign Language.
- ASL Video Clips: The University of Wisconsin offers this repository of clips showing how to sign numbers, letters, and expressions.
- How to Tell Time in Sign Language: This video demonstrates how to tell time using American Sign Language.
American Sign Language conversational phrases are very similar to the conversational phrases used within the hearing community. It is still important to greet and inquire how a person is doing when having a conversation in sign language. American Sign Language phrases are best learned by the use of practice, videos, and visual aids. The meanings of certain words within phrases in American Sign Language can change or offer more insight depending on how long the sign is held or by adding facial expressions to the signs. These cues and a person's body language in general are vitally important to conversations with the deaf or hard of hearing and are equally as important as the signs themselves in most cases.
- Common Sign Language Phrases: Videos that teach the most common sign language phrases are featured.
- ASL Phrases: This resource acts as a video dictionary to discover the proper way to sign some basic phrases.
- Animated American Sign Language: Animated signs and their meanings are detailed in this guide to American Sign Language.
- Basic Medical Sign Language (PDF): A California Department of Social Services pamphlet offers medical professionals help communicating with deaf patients.
Learning Sign Language
Learning sign language is very much like learning a foreign language. Although American Sign Language is based on the English language, it is a language of its own. Learning the entire language takes dedication and a lot of practice; however, learning even a few signs can be extremely useful when communicating with the hearing-impaired. There are a vast array of resources available in many different formats for those who wish to learn the language. In fact, learning sign language has become very popular in recent years among new parents wishing to communicate with their young, non-verbal babies. Regardless of the reason behind learning American Sign Language, it is a valuable skill to develop.
- National Center for Sign Language and Gesture Resources: The National Center for Sign Language and Gesture Resources provides a wide array of American Sign Language resources for those wishing to learn the language.
- Sign Language Worksheets: Worksheets for those beginning to learn sign language are offered and available for printing here.
- American Sign Language Worksheets and Crafts: Learning a new language is challenging and often can become tedious. Introducing the featured crafts and worksheets found within this resource is a great way to boost enthusiasm at home or in classrooms.
- Coloring Pages (American Sign Language): Customizing pictures of hand gestures is an efficient way to help remember new signs.
- American Sign Language for Babies and Parents: Many parents have turned to teaching their young babies American Sign Language as a way of early communication. The chart featured on this website teaches parents simple signs for use with their babies.
- Sign Language Across the World: As with hearing people, deaf people also speak different sign languages around the world.
- North American Indian Sign Language: Basic American Indian signs are taught for those who communicate using other forms of sign language in America.
- Sign Language Use for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Hearing Babies (PDF): Sign language has become very popular for use with hearing babies who are unable to communicate. Teaching children to sign at a young age can also be a lifelong skill.
- Learning American Sign Language: Various tips for learning to use American Sign Language are given within this resource.
- ASL Sentence Structure: The University of Texas looks at how sentence structure varies and facial expression plays a key role in ASL.
- ASL Photo/Video Dictionary: In this American Sign Language dictionary, words and phrases are described through use of visual aids.
- About American Sign Language: Everything one may be wondering about American Sign Language is discussed within this resource.
- American Sign Language: Roots and History: Vassar College looks at the development of ASL and its history.
Alternatives to American Sign Language
While sign language is the most popular way for people in the deaf community to communicate with one another as well as with those with the ability to hear, there are many alternatives to American Sign Language. Across the world, there are different variations of sign language, much like there are English and Spanish and other languages in the hearing world. The type of sign language that is used depends greatly upon location. Cochlear implants are another popular means of communication that are rapidly gaining popularity among the deaf community. Cochlear implants are small electronic devices that help those that are predominately deaf gain a sense of hearing, although they are not effective for every deaf person. Other ways to communicate with those who are deaf or hard of hearing include writing notes on paper or even speaking normally if the hearing-impaired individual one is speaking to is able to read lips. There are numerous resources that provide more information about sign language, deaf culture, and alternative communication tactics for the hearing impaired.
- Deafness, Communication, and Isolation in the Workplace (PDF): Deafness can cause people to feel left out during social situations.
- A Survey of ASL Tenses (PDF): A DePaul University study looks at the uses of tenses in ASL communication.
- National Association of the Deaf: The National Association of the Deaf is an excellent resource for those wishing to learn more about the deaf community.
- Through Deaf Eyes: This resource aims to increase understanding of the deaf community for those who are not hearing-impaired.
- World Federation of the Deaf: The culture of the deaf community is discussed and multiple resources for the deaf or hearing-impaired are given by the World Federation of the Deaf.
- Sign Language: Care and Support: Learning to use sign language in a caring and supportive manner is the focus of this guide.
- Cochlear Implants: The use of cochlear implants helps some hearing-impaired people regain a sense of hearing.
- Increasing Literacy Skills With Deaf Infants: Infants who are hard of hearing from birth face different obstacles than those who are able to hear. This resource focuses on increasing literacy in those that are born deaf.
- Communicating With People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (PDF): Basic tips for communicating with those that are deaf or hard of hearing are discussed.
- Deaf and Blind Communication: When a person is both deaf and blind, a different approach must be taken to effectively communicate.
- Tips for Communicating With the Deaf: Using sign language is one way to communicate with the deaf, but there are many other ways to communicate.
- Famous Deaf People: Various deaf people have overcome the challenges they faced as a hearing-impaired individual to become famous and well-known throughout the world, despite their disability.
- Dogs for the Deaf: Dogs are often used to assist those with disabilities, including those who are deaf.
- Communication Tips: Tips for communicating with the hearing-impaired and deaf are given in this resource.
- Communication with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (PDF): Effective communication is much different when one party is unable to communicate in a way that others easily understand.
- Interaction With Deaf People (PDF): Interacting with deaf people is different than communicating with those who can hear. Keeping these interaction tips in mind will ensure that interaction is comfortable for both parties, whether sign language or other means of communication are used.