Position Statement: American Sign Language

The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) fully supports the recommendation by the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing, published in 2007 by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which states “families should be made aware of all communication options and available hearing technologies in an unbiased manner.”

AG Bell recognizes that there are various options regarding language choice, including spoken and signed languages throughout the world. AG Bell also recognizes that there are numerous communication approaches and educational methods that incorporate audition, signs, and various combinations of both speech and sign.

AG Bell acknowledges that a chosen approach depends on culture, family interests, and desired communication outcome. AG Bell believes that the language and communication approach chosen should be based on an informed decision made by the child’s parents/family and based on their own unique circumstances.

With respect to American Sign Language (ASL), AG Bell acknowledges ASL as a language in and of itself. AG Bell also recognizes ASL’s importance in Deaf culture as a unique feature, and a language that many take pride in learning. AG Bell does not believe that ASL should be prohibited or restricted as a choice, nor does AG Bell advocate against learning ASL as part of a child’s overall development if that is what the child’s parents desire.

Regardless of chosen language or communication approach, AG Bell believes that families should have early access to professionals with specialized education and training in the desired language or communication method.

AG Bell serves as a resource for those parents and individuals who choose to pursue a listening and spoken language outcome for their child or themselves. For those who choose to include additional communication approaches, AG Bell continues to provide support and resources with regard to listening and talking. Families and individuals wishing to learn about those additional communication approaches are referred to other organizations that can provide relevant information and appropriate resources.

It is important that organizations that advocate for or work with individuals with hearing loss work together to broaden health care providers’ understanding of all communication methods so that upon identification, unbiased information about all options can be made available to parents and their children.

Through its participation in a variety of coalitions, AG Bell collaborates with organizations that support other modes of communication, such as Cued Speech, Signing Exact English, Total Communication and American Sign Language (ASL). Examples of these coalitions include the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Alliance, and the Council on Education of the Deaf, among others.

Approved by the AG Bell Board of Directors by a unanimous vote June 11, 2008.