Radio Inspire

How To Learn Sign Language

A Deaf Woman’s Journey From Oralism to ASL — See Her Success Today


Julie enjoys spends her free time cooking with her
husband, shopping and giving presentations. As a Deaf woman she does all of this in ASL.
But life hasn’t always been that comfortable. Julie: “My mother always did her best when she was raising me based on what she knew and the resources she was given.” Julie Rems-Smario was born Deaf and but she was raised orally. Julie: “I couldn’t understand my hearing
friends and then I couldn’t understand my Deaf friends either. So, I was a person of no language.” But when Julie entered college she learned ASL, and
she says that that is what changed her life. Julie: “With my Deaf friends we socialized and told jokes and stories we’d have long discussions and debates, whatever we wanted.
It was amazing but I missed that with my own family.” Julie says her family soon realized that she had been missing out on something. Julie: “So, when they looked back they realized
they should have learned ASL. That’s when my parents realized that, ‘Julie she missed out on
an entire life-time of language.’” After realizing their mistake they decided to do something about it during her graduation from CSUN. Julie: “So one day, my parents decided to surprise
me and they took some ASL classes behind my back. And on that day, that was when my Mom and Dad, they let me know that they accepted me. They accepted my people and my family became even bigger that day.” Since then, Julie has risen to a leadership
role throughout the Deaf community even though she hadn’t grown up in it. She was the executive director of a
domestic violence advocacy group for Deaf people called DeafHope… Julie: “This important work to support domestic violence and sexual violence survivors.” President of the California Association of
the Deaf… Julie: “The time is NOW! Our Deaf children
can’t wait until tomorrow.” And now she is one of the co-founders of LEAD-K
where she devotes the majority of her time to writing legislation and fighting to protect ASL for Deaf children. Julie: “No one realizes how utterly painful it is to grow up semi-lingual. To not have skills in ASL, but not have skills in English either.” She says that the biggest challenge in this
fight is getting people to speak up. Julie: “Sometimes I want to spread that message
of why I wish I grew up with ASL but does that mean I’ll offend my parents because
they chose to raise me orally? I don’t want to upset them.” After a lot of soul searching and discussions with her parents they too decided to supported her goals of American Sign Language for all Deaf children. Julie: “My parents, they too were survivors
of the system, just like I was.” Julie says without giving parents the correct information about what’s out there, they can’t cannot make the best decision for their children. Julie: It’s vital that we have signing,
reading and writing. I’ve struggled my whole life with all three of those areas. I’ve
had to work hard because I lacked a solid foundation. She hope that no other Deaf child will
experience that in the future. She is now working with CAD to further one of the many
goals of LEAD-K; passing a bill in California that requires language benchmarks for all
Deaf children. And next week we bring our language equality discussion to a close by pairing two major organizations: the National Association of the Deaf and Gallaudet University. Their experts will take apart ASL myths that have hurt the Deaf community for years.

3 Replies to “A Deaf Woman’s Journey From Oralism to ASL — See Her Success Today”

  • This is such important work! Where is the text of the Bill that's being introduced? Who will measure the language benchmarks for Deaf children? What will the qualifications be for someone to measure these benchmarks – especially in ASL? Will there be language in the Bill to ADD language, rather than subtracting language resources for those not meeting the benchmarks? That seems to be one of the biggest falacies of the faulty theory of oralism that still persists – "if you let your child sign, they won't speak/learn English/whatever" when of course a child's brain is endlessly open, especially to language, and does not benefit from this exclusionary "focus" – ever.

    Anyway, just curious about the actual Bill itself, and how we can help get it passed.

  • WOW!!! I can relate so much to this, I wasn't born deaf but lost my hearing over the years and I've always been left out of my family because they don't sign nor are they willing to learn even though I ask them to… I think sometimes they forget because I can still talk but I have no idea what is happening around me and I never had any accommodations until now and I'm in college I talk because its easier than trying to communicate with others in sign but when I'm at school that's all I use. I'm left mostly lip-reading but it's hard and not very reliable.

  • I also want to travel to schools or colleges and talk about my experiences, help deaf and HOH kids and adults with getting the right accommodations they need, and talk to parents and give them all the resources and inform them about what they can do to help their kids.

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