Community program

Learn ASL with the community program – La Merciade

Have you ever wanted to learn a language but you don’t know exactly where to start? The Eric Community currently offers American Sign Language (ASL) lessons for anyone who wants to try something new.

The Erie office of the Center for Hearing & Deaf Services will begin its first eight-week sessions on Thursday, October 27. The other two sessions will start on Wednesday March 1 and Wednesday April 26, 2023.

Sharon Carpenter, director of the Erie office of the Center for Hearing & Deaf Services, stressed the importance of learning ASL.

“We can assume that there are approximately 20,000 deaf/deaf people living in Erie County (based on ODHH and census.gov guidelines). The biggest obstacle that deaf people face is communication,” Carpenter said. Even the simplest, most basic knowledge of sign language involves breaking down the barrier and ensuring Deaf inclusion.

The mission of the center supports this goal, as explained on their website:

They seek “to provide a diverse and affordable program of quality diagnostic, rehabilitative and supportive services to meet the unique challenges of children and adults who

are deaf or hard of hearing, or have other communication needs, and to serve as a source of information and referral for these populations and the general public. Our vision is to be caring professionals serving people with excellence, dignity and confidence.

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) officially recognizes American Sign Language as the backbone of American Deaf culture.

The NAD has made a statement about the ASL on its official website:

“NAD values ​​the acquisition, use and preservation of ASL and is a recognized leader in promoting the acquisition, learning, teaching and performance of ASL… For these children to really benefit, we encourage people to become fluent and competent users. , teachers and ASL interpreters. Additionally, we invite everyone to learn and use ASL. »

Today, approximately 11.5 million Americans have some kind of hearing loss. Infants and young children, hearing or deaf, can access and use sign language earlier than spoken language.

“In my opinion,” said Carpenter, “sign language should be offered as a language in schools because of its benefits. And not just for deaf people, but also as a communication aid for autistic, disabled mentally ill and anyone else with communication difficulties.

The Center for Hearing & Deaf will offer classes in ASL 1 for students to learn basic conversational sign language.

“The goal is to have lessons given by a deaf person. Some are, some aren’t. Not every class has a voice,” Carpenter said.

The office is currently looking to expand its program for the future.

“There will be different levels of ASL classes in the future, hopefully by our 2023-2024 academic year. Currently we only offer the starter course,” Carpenter said.

Learning a new language can be daunting for some people, but it’s important to close the communication barrier we have within Erie and the United States as a whole.

This is why the Center for Hearing and Deaf Services tries to support people who are learning ASL as much as possible and help them in any way possible.

According to Lead with Languages.org, there are approximately 250,000 to 500,000 ASL users in the United States and Canada, which includes hearing children of Deaf parents, hearing siblings of parents of Deaf people, hearing adults who become deaf and learn from others in the deaf community, as well as students seeking to learn ASL in the classroom and in the workplace.

“Learning a language and using it in front of native speakers can be very intimidating. I’ve never known a deaf person to laugh at someone trying to communicate. And you’re not alone. But the class is fun and our teachers are great at making you feel comfortable,” Carpenter said.