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.

Good News: ASL Access Video Collections!

Imagine walking into your public library and finding over 200 ASL videos on the shelves. Dozens of videos show how to sign. Poets and storytellers shine a light on ASL. Signing humorists get laughs. Deaf History preserves past victories. Deaf visionaries look to the future.  The ASL Access Video Collection.  Ask your library to get it.


Residential schools for deaf students have fewer students than in the past. Some have closed down. Yet generations of deaf students have loved these schools. Deaf poet, Ella Mae Lentz, in her poem, Children's Garden, (The Treasure, VHS, In Motion Press, 1995) expresses the concern that a threat to deaf schools is a threat to ASL and to the well-being of deaf children. If not all deaf students can go to deaf schools, why not bring deaf schools to the students? ASL Access Video Collections almost do it! With "virtual reality," these videos put ASL and Deaf role models right into the homes of deaf students. Of course, this isn't the same as meeting Deaf people. But it shares the gift of ASL and the clear picture that Deaf people are part of a community.
Years ago, many Deaf people went to Deaf Clubs. Now that fewer attend, something important may be lost. With these videos, Deaf people "keep in touch" with the vision and values of those who use ASL.
Many parents with young deaf children face frustrations in communication, and feel confused about which methods are best. Some parents may learn to sign, but not know how to sign in creative ways to encourage interest in reading. ASL Access Video Collections help parents of deaf children and Deaf adults work together. Families learn ASL and develop positive attitudes towards the deaf child's future. ASL storytelling videos help deaf kids get excited about reading.
Although technology has improved access to spoken and written language, access to visual language - ASL - is still very limited. True, many high schools and colleges offer ASL classes. And there are a small number of schools in which ASL is used in the classroom. But most deaf children today do not have access to ASL. Deaf children with access to ASL videos in public libraries have a chance to learn a language designed for the eyes, and to enjoy samples of ASL literature. When deaf children learn ASL, they have a ticket to a rich culture and many new paths to information. They may also discover a bridge to literacy.
In some classrooms with deaf students, teachers' sign skills are limited. Also, some teachers' expectations for deaf students are too low. Teachers may improve sign skills with ASL videos. ASL Access Video Collections celebrate success and show what Deaf people can do.
There is a continuing need for more highly qualified interpreters. Working interpreters who want to upgrade their skills may not know how, or may not have access to additional training. ASL videos in public libraries encourage more people to become interested in interpreting. Working interpreters build skills with training videos and take pleasure in ASL literature.
Not enough hearing people know sign language. Deaf people overwhelmingly agree (96%, according to a survey in Deaf Life) that more hearing people should learn sign language. However, various difficulties may block or slow progress. (1) There are too few qualified ASL teachers, and those who are teaching have limited time. (2) Sign language classes are not accessible to everyone, such as children with a deaf sibling and adults with limited time or transportation. (3) There is a temptation for beginning sign language students to tap Deaf people as unpaid language trainers for practice outside class. This free tutoring can be time-consuming and tiresome for Deaf people. ASL Access Video Collections in public libraries "clone" excellent ASL teachers, storytellers, poets, and historians and send them all over America, where they share their skills, with no stress to their schedules. Families enjoy learning ASL together at home. With ASL Access Video Collections, people who might not be able to get to classes are able to borrow videos for personal study. Sign language students get hours of "virtual practice" with ASL videos, working independently instead of wearing out their welcome in Deaf circles. When hearing persons work hard to improve sign skills, it shows respect for Deaf people and gives real friendships a chance to grow. And that, folks, is good news.

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