(Copying from a web-based article in the newspaper called Visalia Times-Delta. Link is http://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007710010334. Thanks to Katherine Carlsen for alerting me to this! Visalia is a city located in central California, not far from Fresno. –Ella)
Rally for sign language
Knowledge helps children in future learning
By Hillary S. Meeks
When Cathi Ables finally learned sign language at age 21, a whole new world was revealed to her.
“It helped build up my confidence, overcome my weakness and my embarrassment for being deaf,” she said.
Though she has some hearing, Ables found learning American Sign Language to be a helpful tool in both school and her personal life. She was never taught sign language in school and relied on her self-taught ability to read lips in order to communicate.
The idea that hearing-impaired children should avoid sign language and focus on other methods of communication is a trend that occurs every 20 to 30 years, according to interpreter Katie Benson. But she, and about a dozen other Visalia residents rallied Saturday afternoon at the corner of Mooney Boulevard and Caldwell Avenue to support the use of sign language.
“Deaf children who get to learn ASL have the opportunity to be more fluent in English later,” she said. “But the ones who do not learn ASL and are taught English first never establish a solid language foundation. They are the ones who are behind.”
As a young child, Ables said she struggled to keep up in the classroom because her teacher believed that sign language would be a hindrance to her learning how to read and talk.
“I had no idea what was going on in class,” she said. “I couldn’t hear the teacher, and I kind of just watched the other students to see what we were doing.”
While it is still a battle to ensure that young deaf children learn both American Sign Language and English in school, Ables said she knows that programs have become better.
“I grew up in Hanford, and now they have a deaf program in the schools there,” she said. “That would have really helped me.”
For Kathy Carlsen, an ASL teacher at College of the Sequoias, sign language makes it able for her to communicate to the rest of her family. Even her young grandson has learned it, so he can talk to Carlsen.
“Sign language, hearing people can learn. Deaf people can’t learn how to hear,” she signed, and her friend Marybeth Yates interpreted.
Yates is currently going back to school to refreshen her skills as an interpreter. She first learned sign language when her daughter was having hearing problems.
Though her daughter has had surgeries and regained her hearing, the experience left Yates with a desire to help the deaf community.
Her two daughters were with her at the rally, both enthusiastically holding up signs supporting their cause.
“I want them to support deaf culture and to know that it is very important to speak to people in their language,” Yates explained.
# The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.