American Sign Language Day Date in the current year: April 15, 2022

American Sign Language Day American Sign Language Day, also known as ASL Day, is observed annually on April 15. It celebrates the predominant sign language of Deaf communities in the United States and most of Anglophone Canada. The date was chosen to commemorate the opening of the American School for the Deaf where ASL developed.

Deaf people have used signs to communicate since ancient times, but the development of modern sign languages in the Western world began around the 17th century. Old British Sign Language emerged in the mid-18th century and became the basis for a number of other sign languages, including modern BSL, Auslan (Australian SL), New Zealand SL, Papua New Guinean SL, Northern Ireland SL, and South African SL. The first schools for deaf pupils in Britain were opened by Thomas Braidwood in the late 18th century.

In 1815, American Protestant minister Thomas Gallaudet traveled to Great Britain to study methods for teaching deaf students because he wanted to open a school for the deaf in the United States. However, the Braidwood family were unwilling to share their methods, so Gallaudet went to France and studied French Sign Language and teaching methodology at the Institut National de Jeunes Sourds de Paris.

In 1816, Gallaudet invited Laurent Clerc, one of the deaf faculty members he learned from, to accompany him to the United States and help him establish a school for the deaf. The third co-founder of the school was Dr. Mason Cogswell, Gallaudet’s neighbor whose deaf daughter Alice was the inspiration for the creation of the school.

The American School for the Deaf opened on April 15, 1817, in West Hartford, Connecticut. It was here that American Sign Language emerged from Old French Sign Language under the influence of various village sign languages and home sign systems. Modern ASL and French Sign Language have about 43% of signs in common; ASL and BSL, on the other hand, are mutually unintelligible.

Today, around one million people use ASL as their primary way to communicate. Outside the United States and Anglophone Canada, it is widely used in some countries of Latin America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, as well as in most West African countries.

Despite the seemingly impressive number of speakers, the Communication Services for the Deaf report that 98% of deaf people do not receive education in sign language, and 72% families with deaf children do not use sign language to communicate with them. According to statistics, nine of ten deaf children are born to hearing parents, many of whom do not realize the importance of teaching their children to sign.

Because of this, the main goal of American Sign Language Day is not only to promote the development of ASL within the Deaf community, but also to debunk stereotypes about sign language and promote its study among hearing people, especially those with deaf relatives. In addition, it can be considered the professional holiday of educators working in schools for the deaf, ASL teachers, ASL interpreters, and other people who work with ASL.

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Category

Cultural Observances

Country

USA, Canada

Tags

American Sign Language Day, ASL Day, cultural observances, holidays in the United States, holidays in Canada