Note: From 1998-2005, ASL Access placed collections of over 200 ASL videos in 28 libraries nationwide. When VHS became obsolete, the libraries discarded the collections. This article describes the video collections as they were present in libraries prior to 2005.

ASL Access FAQs for Librarians


Q. What is ASL Access?
A. ASL Access is a 100% volunteer, 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt, non-profit organization dedicated to increasing public access to American Sign Language video resources. ASL Access has helped place collections of over 200 videos on public library shelves, bringing ASL poetry, comedy, stories, drama, debate, discussions and ASL instruction to vast numbers of interested persons.

Q. Who is interested in ASL video resources?
A. ASL Access Collections draw some of the best videos from a wide range of high quality instructional sets, literature selections, and ASL presentations. These items have strong appeal for three primary groups of library customers: hearing parents and their deaf children, deaf adults, and interested hearing persons. Hearing and deaf persons in every community seek ASL video resources.

Q. Exactly how do ASL videos in public libraries help deaf children and their parents?
A. ASL videos increase communication between parents and deaf children, promote literacy, and advance educational achievement. The large majority of parents of deaf children are hearing. Most of these parents know no sign language at the time their child is diagnosed, and experience great frustration in trying to establish or improve communication with their deaf children. Too often, parents who are not skilled signers feel out of touch with their deaf children, and unable to fully meet their needs. In such families, deaf children may feel communicatively isolated. These children may also lose out on the vast amount of learning normally available during the precious pre-school years, limiting later achievement. ASL video resources can make all the difference for these families. While sign language classes are valuable, much additional language practice becomes available by way of library ASL videos. Such videos allow Deaf adults and hearing parents to partner together in creating a rich learning environment for deaf children, despite geographical isolation. With specialized videos addressing educational and social issues, the wisdom of Deaf adults is brought directly into the homes of hearing parents with deaf children. Deaf children can see successful Deaf role models. Deaf children and their parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents can learn ASL from expert teachers in the comfort of home. Parents learn how to help their deaf children with reading skills and general educational opportunities.

Q. How do ASL videos in libraries serve deaf adults?
A. ASL is a cultural contribution arising from Deaf Americans. This distinctly American group appreciates the chance to find its own language and cultural expressions represented in America's libraries. With ASL video accessibility, the Deaf can teach the Deaf, unrestricted by limits of time or geographic isolation. Deaf individuals enjoy cultural identification, and greater information access by way of Deaf-to-Deaf virtual visits. Deaf people across America are able to reach out to one another. Forward-thinking librarians will make efforts to provide library resources of interest to this formerly under-served population.

Q. How do ASL video resources serve the general hearing population?
A. Hearing people who associate with Deaf people or have Deaf people in their families also greatly benefit from ASL Access Collections. With library access to practical ASL instructional videos, those who work or socialize with Deaf people find another way to feed their hunger for increased communication skills.

Q. Why carry ASL videos in areas where there are statistically relatively few Deaf persons?
A. Many people have regular contact with ASL-using individuals. Every community benefits from increased public access to ASL video resources.

Q. No one has put in a request for ASL videos at our branch. Why get ASL videos?
A. Few people ask about such resources because few people are aware of them. Although there are a tremendous number of fascinating and informative ASL videos on the market today, the general public has yet to see most of them. Most public libraries with ASL resources report active borrowing and development of reserve lists. General interest in sign language and deaf people is on the rise. Many high schools, adult schools, colleges and universities are offering ASL classes. Public libraries can take the lead in public services for ASL-using populations by acquiring these resources and partnering with local organizations working with deaf people, schools, and other organizations in publicizing resources.

Q. Is it really possible to learn ASL by watching videos?
A. The ideal learning environment might involve a qualified and inspiring Deaf teacher, ASL presentations and ASL literature, video resources for independent study, and personal acquaintance with skilled ASL signers who take time to mentor students of ASL. These positive learning elements are not available to all interested persons. Students with accessible video resources are far better off than those relying entirely on printed matter (ASL books). Video provides a virtual classroom for those who do not have access to classes, and provides excellent virtual practice to supplement formal ASL classes and informal ASL conversations.

Q. How do I buy a copy of an ASL video?
A. ASL Access has compiled an annotated listing of ASL resources, publishers of ASL videos, and vendors. See Where To Buy.

Q. I am a library collections development administrator. We are proud of our efforts to meet the needs of those who have hearing impairments or are interested in books about deafness and sign language, and we already have many of these books. Isn't this enough? Why should we consider acquiring numerous ASL video titles?
A. American Sign Language is a dynamic visual language. It is impossible to record this language in books or to learn it from books. Video recordings accommodate ASL well. A library aiming to meet the needs of ASL-using patrons will carry ASL video recordings.

Q. But we already have some sign language videos for children, and one instructional video. Isn't this enough?
A. A few children's fairy tale videos featuring sign language, or a single-video "course" in ASL represent only token selections. These materials just skim the surface of the language and cultural resources which are available and which have appeal for ASL-using individuals. There is so much more to discover! Community-minded libraries provide resources of interest to local customers.

Q. As a librarian, I usually rely on published reviews in selecting new acquisitions. I notice that there are very few reviews of sign language resources in the library publications I have. Perhaps I do need to become more informed about ASL videos. What types of materials are available?
A. Reviews generated by ASL Access are available (see Video Reviews). ASL Access has also compiled an annotated listing of ASL resources. See Where To Buy.

Q. Our library policy states that all videos must be captioned. I understand that some of the ASL videos are not captioned, and some have no voice-over. Why?
A. Some of the ASL videos do carry English or Spanish captions and/or voice-over interpretations. Some have neither, presenting ASL alone. It must be understood that American Sign Language is a linguistically complete visual language, entirely separate in grammar, vocabulary, and mode from any spoken language. The purpose of captioning is to provide a visual representation of a spoken language, increasing accessibility for Deaf and hard of hearing persons. However, ASL has no voice component. Nor does it have a standardized written format. It is entirely appropriate for ASL, a visual language created and used by Deaf persons in America, to find independent video representation in public libraries.

Q. On the Locations page, I notice that some libraries have a guidebook or video listing. What is this?
A. The ASL Access guidebooks assist librarians and library customers in finding ASL videos of interest.

Q. Isn't education the business of schools? Why not place collections in schools?
A. Hopefully, someday, ASL video resources will be available in every learning environment from pre-school through college. However, schools typically keep library materials on campus, reserved for students. In contrast, the public library serves well in allowing full accessibility.

Q. I'm convinced! I want to see our local public library system bring in ASL videos. What can I do to promote this?
A. Ask your local library administrators to purchase ASL video resources. If funding is unavailable, you might want to check with local service clubs, businesses and organizations for contributions. Be creative! Investment in ASL video resources provides good returns to the community through improved communication access and life-long educational opportunities.