ASL program asks for equal treatment

Elizabeth Castillo, Reporter

Some members of the Bakersfield College community feel there is stigma associated with using American Sign Language on campus. Tom Moran, the foreign language department chair at Bakersfield College, hopes to educate the BC community about various misconceptions relating to the deaf community.

“Some misconceptions of ASL include it is not a bona fide language, it is a simplified form of English, or that primates can use it to communicate,” he said. “I think that sometimes people rely on these misconceptions to underestimate or even discriminate against deaf people.”

Moran said that he would like for the BC community to learn more about deaf culture to ensure that everyone is treated equally. He said it is important to treat deaf individuals as a minority group. Although BC continues to grow its provisions for deaf students, Moran said that was not always the case.

“In 2002, BC was a very different environment. It was not deaf-friendly and the other ASL instructors were all hearing,” he said.

Moran said thanks to new administration, BC’s deaf-friendly culture is growing. Currently, there are more deaf instructors of ASL than hearing and they play an important role in the ASL program at BC.

“I think the college has made tremendous, positive progress in working with deaf students,” he said. “I urge BC and the people who comprise this great institution to continue to do so by learning more about deaf people and their language.”

Moran began learning more about deaf culture in 1980 so he could be closer to his older sister, who is deaf. He said he was happy to learn ASL because it provided him with fluency in a second language, allowed him to connect with his sister and helped him meet his wife who is deaf.

“ASL has enriched my life immeasurably for the past 25 years,” he said.

ASL is used in the United States and certain parts of Canada. The language is descended from French sign language. If an individual is communicating with a deaf person with an interpreter, it is important for the hearing individual to look at the deaf person while communicating to ensure the deaf person is not ignored. Moran said that even if people do not know ASL, they should not be deterred from communicating with deaf people. He said it’s important to be patient, gesture, draw, or point. Speak at a normal pace, avoid yelling and exaggerating mouth movements.

“Most deaf people are remarkable communicators with great proficiency—and patience—in dealing with hearing people, something they’ve done daily throughout their lives,” he said.