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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Thu Nov 15, 2001  2:44 pm
Subject:  Re: Questions About SignWriting

SignWriting List
November 15, 2001

Kelli and List members:

There are questions and answers about SignWriting on the web. I hope
this helps!

SignWriting Questions & Answers Directory

Deafness, Sign Language & SignWriting

Approximately 7% of the world's population has some kind of hearing
loss. The majority are born with normal hearing, becoming deaf later
in life.

"Late-deafened-adults" speak, read and write spoken languages,
because in their childhood, they could hear. They rarely learn or use
a signed language.

Fewer than 1% of the world's population uses a signed language to
communicate. Although most are members of the Deaf Community, not all
are necessarily deaf. Hearing children born into Deaf families use a
signed language daily too, as do hearing teachers and parents.

An even smaller percentage of the world's population is born deaf,
sometimes of Deaf parents. Deafness can be genetic, and if deaf
people marry, the recessive gene can create families with several
generations of deaf people, including deaf aunts, uncles, cousins,
and grandfathers . Some children are born hearing in these families,
some are hard-of-hearing, but most are born profoundly-deaf, and
everyone in the family uses a signed language as their "native

Deaf people born into Deaf families are called "Deaf of Deaf". Their
native language is a signed language and if they learn English, or
another spoken language, it is their second language. They cannot
hear their second language, since hearing aids rarely work for them.
As members of "Deaf culture" they live in a silent but visually-rich
world which few hearing people ever know.

Signed languages are not international. Just like spoken languages,
signed languages developed naturally, and as natural languages, they
are different in every country. Signed languages are beautiful, rich
languages with large vocabularies and sophisticated grammars that are
quite different from the spoken languages of the countries they

Twenty-five years ago there was no way to read, write or type signed
languages, but now, with the invention of our new writing system
SignWriting, and the development of the SignWriter Computer Program,
the world's signed languages are becoming written (and typed)

Meanwhile, deaf education has a dilemma: Deaf children are not
graduating with good reading and writing skills. This has been
frustrating, not only for teachers and parents, but for the children
themselves, giving them low self-esteem. Yet those same deaf children
are expressive in their native signed language, and have a large sign
vocabulary. Sadly, words escape them. Hearing teachers, who often do
not know how to sign well themselves, are left baffled.

Deaf people are not handicapped amongst themselves. With each other,
they communicate beautifully. They are only "impaired" in relation to
the hearing world and to "sound-based" languages. Deafness is the
"invisible handicap" because a hearing person cannot "see deafness".
Oftentimes deaf education is poorly funded, partly because deaf
people have trouble explaining in English that English to them seems
" foreign".

Val ;-)

Valerie Sutton


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