National ASL Day
Although there are currently over 1.5 billion people who live with some form of hearing loss, only about 430 million people have hearing loss which is considered disabling. And many of these people depend on sign language to help them communicate.
In North America, approximately half a million people use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate as their native language. This language has enabled them to communicate with other people who also communicate using this language.
ASL has become an important language outside of North America as well and is now one of the most prominent forms of sign language in the world. That’s why it’s currently being celebrated with its own holiday. A holiday is known as National ASL Day that’s celebrated every April 15th.
The History Of National ASL Day
Before American Sign Language was created, communities all across the U.S. used their own forms of sign language, and these forms could differ greatly from one community to the next. Prior to this, Native American communities, particularly the tribes of the Great Plains used sign language to communicate with one another while they were scouting or hunting.
ASL would originate in the American School for the Deaf (ASD) that was founded in 1817 in Hartford, Connecticut. This school was founded by divinity student and Yale graduate Thomas Gallaudet. After traveling to Europe to learn deaf pedagogy, he decided to adopt the methods of the French Institut National de Jeunes Sourds de Paris.
He would convince Laurent Clerc, an assistant to the French school’s founder, to return with him to the United States. With his help, Gallaudet managed to found the ASD on April 15, 1817. The first teacher at ASD, Laurent Clerc, taught using French Sign Language (LSF). Eventually, this contact with sign language would lead to the development of American Sign Language (ASL).
As time wore on, other schools for the deaf would be created and this helped to increase the popularity of ASL. The National Association of the Dead and the National Fraternal Society of the Deaf also held national conventions that helped to spread ASL across North America.
Unfortunately, sign language wouldn’t be considered a “real language” until the 1950s and 1960s. This is when the legitimacy of the ASL was established by linguist Willaim Stoke and aided by the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Today, linguists recognize ASL as a proper language, and is now spoken by hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
Observing National ASL Day
This is a holiday that celebrates American Sign Language, so it can be observed in any number of different ways. People can learn ASL, can help spread the word about ASL using the hashtag #NationalASLDay, or can even challenge their friends and family members to learn some words in ASL.