Future deaf Americans could do a lot less signing and a lot more speaking. Cuts in Indiana could slash budgets for state schools for the deaf, forcing some children to attend "mainstream" schools, where they have less exposure to sign language. Sign language advocates are outraged. “Speaking and listening classrooms across the nation are known for their forced exclusion of A.S.L. and expressly forbid any contact with the culturally deaf adult role models,”Marvin Miller, the president of the Indiana Association of the Deaf, told The New York Times's Monica Davey.
This means more talking, less signing. And the phenomenon isn't unique to Indiana. "Today less than 20 percent of all families choose traditional American Sign Language," claims Hear Indiana, a group that supports deaf people who use listening and spoken language to communicate, reports the Times. "The remaining 80 percent want their children to enjoy the full range of sounds and to be able to listen and speak." But are strained state budgets the real backbone behind these numbers, or are more deaf children and their parents shying away from signing for other reasons?
Yes, budget cuts are pushing students away from sign language. Parents can choose to send their children to a deaf school or not. But as the economy has worsened, tightening budgets have caused states like Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota and West Virginia to cut money for state-funded schools for the deaf. “Kids in the mainstream save society, taxpayers, a significant amount of money in the short-term and in the long-term when it comes to being integrated into the hearing world,” Naomi S. Horton, executive director of Hear Indiana, told Davey. The costs of a separate facility and transportation makes educating these children costlier than sending them to their neighborhood public school.