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How To Learn Sign Language

ASL version of CAN’s letter

Hello, everybody. I’m Joshua Mora. I am providing an ASL version of the letter that Communication Access Now gave to the NTID administration. Before I start, I’d like to summarize what we’ve been doing. Really, we’ve been through a long journey. I met so many people and really got to know the NTID community with this issue. We’ve been working hard on this because we realized that for a long time we really didn’t have language equality at NTID. This is a long dialogue with the administration Really, many things have happened. This is a brief idea of what we are expecting from the administration. NTID Communication Access Statement and Demands. We want to thank you for attending the first two communication forums and listening to our concerns and proposed resolutions. We want you to thank you for coming to the third communication forum and giving us your response. The communication forums were hosted by NTID Student Congress, NSC, and were motivated by the community. These communication forum were opportunities for Deaf, Deaf Blind, and Hard of Hearing students to express their experiences with communication and access services at NTID and RIT’s colleges. Historically, deaf, deaf-blind, and hard of hearing students have struggled to get full language access here at NTID/RIT. Disregarding the full languages of English and ASL, NTID’s primary mode of instruction has been simultaneous communication. The standard definition of simultaneous communication is “sign supported speech.” It has been declared as the primary mode of instruction on November 20, 2015, by Dr. Stephen Aldersley. Even though it MIGHT benefit aurally-dependent students, it is still very problematic for those who receive information through American Sign Language, due to ASL structure being deficient in Sim Com. Sign supported speech is extremely time consuming for instructors of NTID, and they have to excessively focus on making sure their sim-com is comprehensible by using two different languages, English and ASL, at the same time. This “culture” of sign supported speech was created by the administration, and it severely hurts those who receive language visually. And oral students have absolutely no ability to communicate with other students. This vagueness, inability to understand, and inaccessibility of communication in the classroom absolutely should not be happening. Students who are strongly dependent upon aural reception of language and those who are weak in signing in classes both struggle in classrooms where teachers use more sign language. This communication issue has appeared in RIT, where cross-registered students haven’t gotten the same level of language access as their class peers. For example, if a student needs an ASL interpreter or cued-speech transliterator but is stuck with C-Print service, that student is unable to participate at all in class. That deprives them of their opportunity of classroom and educational experiences. Today’s system of distributing resources on campus at NTID/RIT is explicitly failing. The list of communication modes at RIT/NTID is long, some of them including SEE, PSE, Cued Speech, tactile sign language, spoken language, and American Sign Language. Those are a few of many. We understand that it’s hard to find resources to accommodate them all, but we want to inform you that it is not realistic to apply ONE mode of instruction or limit access services for 1,200 students in NTID/RIT. After the first two communication forums, we were looking forward to your response to our concerns and proposed resolutions. We felt that the two communication forums were clear with showing our diverse backgrounds and diverse communicative needs. However, after the 3rd communication forum, we were taken aback with the feeling that you did not give deep thought nor analysis to our concerns and proposals. Some students proposed great ideas and you showed that you did not really consider them. At some points you went off point or were excessively vague. A group of us concerned students got together with the NTID Student Congress. We pored through all the comments, proposals, everything after the three communication forums, and decided that, yes, every student deserves equal communication access. We developed eight demands which were consolidated to four. Now, today, we want to deliver our demands to you. We demand for the NTID administration, faculty, and staff to take annual cultural education through sensitivity training courses, on Deaf culture and students with intersectional Deaf identities. Students have deeply complained about a lot of bullying and oppression from the administration due to the explicit fact that they have no daily experience having deaf identities, such as Deaf, Deaf-Blind, Hard-Of-Hearing, Deaf with Additional Disabilities, People of Color, and LGBTIQ, along with more. Through such annual cultural education, perceptions and cultural understanding would begin to match that of students, and faculty/staff would be more sensitive to new ideas with respect to actually accommodating us. Also, this sensitivity training would enable faculty and staff to actually work with students better and teacher-student relationships would actually become better. In addition, an outside consultant is absolutely requisite as they are more capable of recognizing gaps and opportunities for improvement. This would be a great step for NTID administration, faculty, and staff to actually understand what the complex world of deaf people consists of. This outside consultant must be approved by NTID Student Congress and NTID Student Assembly. We are ready to make recommendations of appropriate outside consultants. We demand NTID to recognize ASL as the primary mode of instruction. When this language is correctly recognized at NTID, students’ language needs would be able to be realistically accommodated and more fitting accommodations would be able to be provided for all. By this, we mean when ASL is recognized as the primary mode of instruction, students would be able to make requests for language-based access services, such as English voice interpretation, cued speech, tactile sign language, or low-vision support technology, to fulfill classroom needs. Teachers also would be able to be clear with expectations for all students instead of working furtively to match an overwhelming array of diverse student needs. Through this, we need to have continuous training and/or ASL qualification assessment, to ensure teachers are actually qualified to teach fluently through American Sign Language. We demand a continuing plan that promises full equal communication access in RIT/NTID. For example, adjust C-Print and CART services to make sure that students can actually participate in classrooms. Second, invest in and expand current resources for cued speech users and tactile and low-vision sign language users, and that includes more skill development training and courses for interpreters to partake in relevant to tactile sign and cued speech. Or collaborate with other interpreting agencies such as BOCES I and II, Interpretek Sign Language Connection, and Video Relay Interpreting services. Such efforts must be approved by the NTID Student Assembly. The Visual Support Committee must be recognized and given funding so they can request for more help and service related with low vision needs. For example, more tactile sign training, and continuous updating of technology, such as large, readable screens for clear reading. Also, more access must be given to non-academic events, through voice and signing. By investing in such plans, the future of access services would be successful, and their ongoing issues would be resolved. Many students today say they do not get appropriate services for their needs, both inside and outside classrooms at RIT/NTID. Students who get CART or C-Print that are fluent in cued speech or ASL or other modes feel they are forced into awkward situations where they cannot participate in classrooms or give presentations or participate in group work. This is just as acute an issue for low-vision students. There might be interpreters who are know how to do tactile sign, but they are not always willing to do tactile sign. We demand information disseminated to the NTID community to be clear and transparent with all. For instance, make a directory website that actually shows clearly who to contact for access services, for oral students, cued speech users, tactile sign users, C-Print, captions, and sign language interpreters. You must make a plan that accurately portrays and represents the NTID student community, and show this to the NTID Student Assembly, and this would help the administration become more transparent with us. Making Flexible Direction Instruction known to every NTID students must be mandatory, particularly during the SVP freshman program, so that all students have a fair chance to request for appropriate accommodations. For students to be not informed of FDI request deadlines time frames during the semester is not acceptable, and information must be communicated in a timely, clear manner. Dr. Stephen Aldersley has announced in the third communication forum that he knows that some students feel misled about all access services here. Giving an accurate picture of access services at NTID would help future students make more appropriate decisions before enrolling at NTID. This plan should clarify what kind of instruction modes are provided, such as spoken English, sign supported speech, and ASL. The plan also should advertise accurately what NTID has, with regards to ASL interpreters, oral interpreters, C-print, tactile sign interpreters, notetakers, and all other access service information. This plan should emphasize NTID Admissions knowing what kind of access services are provided what kind of classes, how many classes, teachers, and other information, and also, what actual access service limitations there are. For example, the availability of teachers who know ASL, what varied access services you realistically can get, and finally, time limitations to acquire service. The deadline for meeting these demands is Friday, February 5, at 9 in the morning. We ask for a clear report explaining the plan to meet all those demands, along with a community forum explaining a clear timeline. That forum must include students, staff, faculty, and administration. That forum must include NTID Student Congress and NTID Student Assembly, both of whom should be able to interact and work with the administration on actual implementation of such plans. Also, information on such a forum must be disseminated to the NTID community in a way and format that must be approved by the NSC and NSA. So, we want to work closely with the administration to make sure they meet those demands. Our vision is full transparency and actual input which includes updates and meetings and developments of new ideas, together. Our vision is increased, better quality of service here for NTID students and cross-registered students. Really, we deserve the top education that RIT is known for giving.

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