SASL Journal Vol. 1, No. 1 - Page 8

ASL: Access, Benefits, and Quality Rosen usage of ASL in the education system? Challenges and issues concerning ASL and society will be addressed with new ideas on how to maximize access, benefits, and quality of ASL with individuals, families, and the education system. Access to American Sign Language in Education To frame the ensuing discussion on access to ASL for deaf individuals and for individuals who are hearing, a history of ASL in the U.S. with the deaf and hearing populations and in educational institutions is provided. History of ASL in the Education of Deaf Students ASL was initially developed for use among individuals who are deaf at the schools for the deaf in the early nineteenth century. Prior to the establishment of the first schools for the deaf, there were indigenous sign language systems that were already in use in certain areas of the U.S. where there was a high prevalence of deafness among inhabitants. Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the Massachusetts coast is a prime example, since it played a role in the development of ASL (Bahan & Poole-Nash, 1996; Groce, 1985). The fact that both deaf and hearing residents on Martha’s Vineyard were signers is a rarity. Although hearing island residents spoke English, they often signed with each other and with deaf residents. Successful inclusion and respect for diversity concerning deaf people was practiced on the island until the demise of this signing society in the twentieth century (Groce, 1985). On the U.S. mainland, the attitude about sign language was that hearing people were strictly speakers, an attitude that continues to characterize the country to this day. This has resulted in the restricted use of ASL in schools for the deaf. The first such school, the Connecticut Asylum for the Instruction of Deaf-Mutes (now the American School for the Deaf), was established in Hartford, Connecticut by Laurent Clerc, who hailed from France, and helped establish the school along with Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, an Episcopalian priest who became interested in educating deaf children after his encounter with a deaf girl in his neighborhood. At the school, Clerc imported French Sign Language, which became Anglicized, that is, French signs for English words, and curricula from his previous position at the Royal National Institute for the Education of Deaf- Mutes in Paris, France. The deaf children who constituted the first classes at the Connecticut school brought some signing forms from their individual regions, such as Martha’s Vineyard (Lane, Pillard, & French, 2000). At the school, the Anglicized French Sign Language and the indigenous sign languages were merged together and became Old ASL. As time passed, Old ASL underwent changes as expected for any human language, now seen as Modern ASL (T. Supalla & Clark, 2014). This process included the nationwide dissemination of ASL. From the 1810s to the 1850s, 20 schools for the deaf were established, and all of these schools employed the same language, ASL, and used the same curricula. Individuals who wanted to become teachers of the deaf were trained at the Connecticut school and brought ASL to other schools for the deaf (Van Cleve & Crouch, 1989). This network of schools for the deaf helped with the dissemination and standardization of ASL through its history. The mechanisms for the transmission of ASL to generations of users represent a trait that is unique to the deaf population as well. Normally, a hearing child would learn and master a native language that his or her parents speak. Deaf children with hearing parents are not likely to find ASL readily used in their homes. For most of history (and to some extent still SASLJ, Vol. 1, No. 1 – Fall/Winter 2017 8