Deaf Perspectives on SignWriting
Video Series

Video 1

How Deaf Opinions Changed

About This Video

Deaf Perspectives on SignWriting Videos Series
Two videos and two colorful booklets. Available on DVD.
ISBN: 0-914336-71-1.

Video 1: How Deaf Opinions Changed
Deaf signers, native to American Sign Language (ASL), give their opinions on SignWriting, including Lucinda O'Grady Batch, Bonita Ewan, Kathleen Say and Denny Voreck. In the early 1990's, the Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting met in the evenings, in Valerie Sutton's home, in La Jolla, California, to discuss how to write signs and create documents and dictionaries in American Sign Language. This casual video was shot during one of those meetings. The video finishes with Valerie telling about her early days writing Danish Sign Language in Copenhagen.

Video 2: How SignWriting Changed
Taken from the perspective of the Deaf people involved, Video 2 is a synopsis of how SignWriting changed and improved, as more Deaf people began to write their language. Native signers skilled in SignWriting discuss how they used the system in the 1980's and early 1990's. This 30 minute video features George 'Butch' Zein, Lucinda O'Grady Batch, Kevin Clark, Denny Voreck, and Valerie Sutton, with guest appearances by Deaf actor Bernard Bragg, and a special visitor from Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz Al-Obaid, who discusses recording Saudi Arabian Sign Language. In American Sign Language, with English voice and captions.

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Deaf Perspectives on SignWriting DVD Series


Deaf Perspectives on SignWriting®
Video Series: History of SignWriting
1. How Deaf Opinions Changed

Published by the DAC
The Deaf Action Committee For SignWriting®

Sponsored by
The Center For Sutton Movement Writing, Inc.
A non-profit, tax-exempt 501 c 3 educational organization.

P.O. Box 517 • La Jolla • CA. • 92038-0517 • USA
tel 858-456-0098 • fax 858-456-0020
Lessons Online......SignWritingSite:
Dictionary Online......SignBankSite:

Deaf Perspectives on SignWriting®
Video Series

ISBN: 0-914336-71-1

Copyright © 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998
Center for Sutton Movement Writing, Inc.

Cover & Title Page Photos: Lucinda O'Grady Batch,
Bonita Ewan, Denny Voreck and Kathleen Say
All photos are captured from the video.

by Melissa Smith

Book layout & design
by Valerie Sutton

SignWriting¨ was first invented
by Valerie Sutton in 1974.

Video Production Facility:
Lightning Corporation in San Diego, California

On-line Editor:
Thomas Kihneman

SignWriting¨ could not continue without support from our sponsors, including...Hoag Foundation, Hughes Give-Once Clubs, R.C. Baker Foundation, Rockwell Donate-Once-Clubs, San Diego Gas & Electric, the Seuss Foundation, TRW-Echo, and others.

SignWriter¨, SignWriting¨ & SignSymbolSequence® are trademarks of The Center for Sutton Movement Writing. SignWriting is a part of Sutton Movement Writing.


Lucinda O'Grady Batch
Bonita Ewan
Denny Voreck
Kathleen Say
Valerie Sutton



Lucinda O'Grady Batch
"It is important to have a way to preserve old ASL signs, as well as more current ones"

Hi. My name is Lucinda O'Grady Batch (Cindy). I am Deaf. I come from a Deaf family. I went to a Deaf school in New Jersey. When I came to California I got a job working at Salk Institute which focuses on sign language research. I also have taught American Sign Language (ASL) classes and I have been involved in the field of ASL in general.

Now, let me explain a little about the DAC, which stands for the Deaf Action Committee. That started in about 1988. Valerie Sutton is a hearing woman who invented SignWriting way back in 1974. I got involved in SignWriting in about 1981. In 1988, we decided to set up the Deaf Action Committee for the purpose of having several Deaf people involved working on the SignWriting project.

We meet weekly to work on newsletters and the distribution of those newsletters, as well as a sign language dictionary. It is important to have a way to preserve old ASL signs as well as more current ones, and to be able to share them throughout the United States. That project is also helpful internationally for research purposes. So, that's what we have been doing to date.

I have been involved with the SignWriting project for a long time. In 1981, when I first got involved, I wasn't sure if it was necessary or a good idea, but after I started learning I could see its true value, especially for research.

We do a lot of research work and SignWriting is a wonderful way to document that research. It can also be used in language education. More and more schools for the Deaf are using the "bilingual-bicultural approach" in the classroom. SignWriting could be added to the curriculum in such programs, to enhance Deaf people's own language, ASL.

The purpose of this videotape is to find out other Deaf Action Committee member's perspectives on SignWriting, whether it be positive or negative, and what uses they foresee.

Bonita Ewan
"It is a wonderful opportunity for Deaf people to preserve ASL and ASL stories"

Hi. I'm Bonita Ewan. I grew up in Maryland. I am the fourth generation of Deaf people in my family. I went to a Deaf school in Maryland and I graduated from Gallaudet in Communications. I work at Salk Institute as well. I work with ASL research.

When I first heard about SignWriting, I strongly disagreed. I thought it was totally unnecessary. I wanted to meet Valerie Sutton, because I was curious. So I met her and she asked me if I was interested in working with SignWriting and I thought "Sure. Why not?" I felt a little bit like a hypocrite, but I wanted to see if it was interesting and sure enough...I became fascinated with SignWriting.
I had never really thought about it, but it is a wonderful opportunity for Deaf people to be able to understand and to preserve ASL and ASL stories.

You know, some hearing teachers are not good at presenting ASL stories but this would be a marvelous tool for them to use. In the future, I wish we could add facial expressions because that's my love and I believe that Deaf schools could use that. It would also be good for mainstreaming programs and for use with ASL storytelling. So I hope that is what it is used for in the upcoming future.

Denny Voreck
"My suggestion for increasing the use of SignWriting is to start a pilot program at a Deaf school"

Hi. My name is Denny C. Voreck. Igraduated from Fremont School ForThe Deaf in 1984, and from Gallaudetin the class of '92, but I am loyal to theclass of '89.I heard a lot about SignWriting. I thinkthe first time I heard about it was atCindy O'Grady Batch's wedding. I metValerie Sutton there. She showed meSignWriting. It looked like Chinesecharacters to me. It was really weird.But I didn't say anything. I thought itwas a little bit crazy. Later, I askedCindy if she still worked with ValerieSutton. She said yes, and told me alittle bit about it. I was skeptical. Ithought "Who really cares?"After I had graduated,I thought "Whynot give it a chance? Work with it alittle bit. It can't hurt to try!" So,I talkedwith Valerie Sutton and later on shecalled me and said there was aposition available. I started learninghow to write following the rules. Itwas a little frustrating getting to knowthe system. The palm of the hand isrepresented by white. The back of thehand is represented by black. If thesymbol is cut, it represents a differentplane to show the third dimension. AsI was trained, I started picking upmore and more.

I started working at home on my owncomputer. I could follow my ownschedule. I really enjoyed that a lot. Inthe middle of the night, if I had nothingto do, I could start working on theSignWriting project. As I became morefamiliar with the SignWriter computerprogram, I was fascinated, and I startedto tell my friends about it.My suggestion for increasing the use ofSignWriting would be to start a pilotprogram at a Deaf school, for example,the Fremont or Riverside Schools ForThe Deaf. See if it works. Maybe start atthe elementary school level and see if thechildren are successful in learning. If it iseffective, it may be used as a modelnationwide. It could be used as a modelfor Gallaudet University and theworld...maybe later the Universe! Whoknows?!!Now, I feel that SignWriting is veryinnovative and different. It is unique!All great inventions start withexperiments. And sure...a lot ofexperiments fail, but great inventionshappen starting with experiments. Iencourage you to see how compatibleSignWriting is with ASL. Its successreally depends on the Deaf Schools,educational systems, administration,the Deaf Community, and politics.

Kathleen Say
"I hope the Deaf Community will accept writing Sign as a part of the language"

Hi. My name is Kathy Say. I went tothe Arizona School For The Deaf andafter graduation, went to Gallaudet.After I graduated there, I moved toWashington state where I was thesupervisor for the school for theDeaf for a year and a half. I movedhere to San Diego where I work as aresearcher at Salk Institute and Ihave been there for two years.I would say back when I was in highschool was the first time I heardabout SignWriting. I couldn'tunderstand what that wouldpossibly be for, and what it wasworth. I was very much against it.When I came here to San Diego Iheard again about SignWriting. Ithought "People are still talkingabout SignWriting!" I decided to goand see for fun what it would be like.I met Valerie Sutton and I started tolearn and I learned a lot. And I alsolearned how valuable it is. I learnedmore and more and more.When you learn something you haveto start with the basics and then itgets easier after that. You can readand write it easily.

Just like written English, you have tostart learning words and then latersentences and continue from there. Itis very important to have a strongfoundation. ASL is the same way.SignWriting is not formally in theschool systems yet, but for researchpurposes it is very important and itcan also lead to the educational systemfor preserving sign language in thefuture. It teaches the children thedifferent grammatical structures, thatis to say, the structure of ASL and howit differs from English structure. Itwould be nice to have SignWriting forthe future and I hope that one day itwill be incorporated into theeducational system through the"bilingual-bicultural approach".I hope the Deaf Community willaccept writing Sign as a part of thelanguage, as a written language,because many languages have aspoken form as well as a written form.Why can't we have two forms? Amanual form, and a written form? Itwould really be nice to have both. Ihope that that will happen.

Valerie Sutton
"ASL is a really beautiful language. I would never want to change it. I want to preserve it."

Hello. My name is Valerie Sutton,and I am the inventor ofSignWriting®. I am a hearing person.People ask me if I grew up with Deafpeople, or maybe I had Deaf peoplein my family, or maybe I went toschool with Deaf people. No. I neverknew Deaf people when I was grow-ing up. I wish I had, of course.But I was always fascinated withsign language. I think a lot of hear-ing people are fascinated with signlanguage. I was a dancer.

I loved ballet. I was in training all ofmy childhood to become a dancer. Iwent to Denmark and I wrote theirdance steps. I invented a way towrite dance movement on paper. Wecall it "DanceWriting®".I never thought that I would workwith Deaf people. I had no idea thatwould happen. It is an interestingstory. There were some articles in thenewspapers in Denmark about myDanceWriting system. I got a call“out of the blue” from the University of Copenhagen.

It was back in 1974-1975. They hadresearch on sign language. Theywanted to put down the movementsof sign language on paper, but theyhad no way to do that.They saw the article onDanceWriting in the newspaper andgave me a call. They asked me toshow my DanceWriting system totheir university group. I was reallysurprised, but interested. Theyasked me if I could use myDanceWriting system to put downthe movements of sign language onpaper. I said Ok. I sat in front of avideotape machine watching DanishSign Language for three months. Ihad no idea what they were saying,but, I was fascinated. I comparedmy DanceWriting system with signlanguage, and put signs down on pa-per. That’s the way I developedSignWriting for the first time.I got the idea that maybe we shouldcontact Deaf people. Maybe wecould publish a newspaper in signlanguage. I went to my boss and sug-gested that idea. He said, “Whywould Deaf people want to dothat?” He had never thought aboutthat before. I was a little discouragedbut I went home to my homeland in the USA and decided to contact Deafpeople. Some Deaf people got in-volved. They supported me andhelped me.I want to make it very clear that Ido not want to change ASL. No. Ilove ASL. ASL is a really beautifullanguage. I would never want tochange it, I want to preserve it. Iwould never change to SEE signs.No. A lot of people think that be-cause I am a hearing person that Iwould do that, but no, I would not.I write what I see. I know my ASL isnot perfect (smile) but those Deafpeople who work with me teach meASL. The Deaf people themselveswrite ASL. I just invented the sym-bols in general that can be used towrite any sign language in theworld.So...I wanted to introduce myselfand I wanted you to meet a few ofour Deaf members of the Deaf Ac-tion Committee. Thank you for look-ing at this videotape and we hopeto see you again soon. Bye!


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