ASL Integral to Student’s Life

by Vendela Krenkel ‘20 and Anjali Verma ‘20

Approximately two million people in the United States are deaf. For junior Drew Scott, the deaf community is not only part of life, but of his household. With both of his parents being deaf, Scott’s first language was American Sign Language (ASL); he says him and his sister learned how to communicate before they could talk.

“We still share the same experiences with our parents, but we experience them in a different way. When you’re signing to someone, it’s the same as talking to them,” said Scott. He considers himself bilingual and grew up translating between his parents and others they interact with when going out.

Scott learned ASL as an infant before learning spoken language with his hearing grandparents. Young children pick up on ASL visuals from their parents, and through association, gradually expand their vocabulary from essentials such as communicating hunger to a greater variety of words and their signs, much like toddlers learn a spoken language.

Maryland hosts one of the largest deaf communities in the country, primarily due to close proximity to D.C.’s Gallaudet University, the U.S.’ primary college for the deaf, which Scott’s aunt attended. Since its establishment in 1864, pockets of small, familiar deaf communities have emerged, especially in Baltimore.

“Deaf culture entirely hinges on ASL. Language is a huge part of any culture,” said Scott. Deaf culture and ASL culture go hand in hand. Both cultures include a diverse group of people who all share one thing in common. This tight-knit community is where Scott finds his home.

“This experience really makes me who I am … It is my strong belief that everyone should learn ASL and my hope is that this comes true. I want the community to expand,” said Scott.