Readers’ Forum: The beauty of sign language

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Blind and deaf American author and educator Helen Keller visited BYU on a lecture tour in 1914. She and her interpreter, left, hold hands to communicate using sign language. (Daily Universe archives)

Facial expressions, pointing and gestures are a fundamental part of our daily life and we might be taking them for granted. Everyone should consider learning sign language for better and more convenient communication and for making our community more inclusive. 

Sign language is convenient for general use as it makes it easy to communicate in close quarters as well as from far away.

American Sign Language recently helped me to communicate with a friend at a pool. My friend was in the bleachers, and about 20 feet away, so we just signed instead of yelling. It was helpful and convenient because it allowed us to have an entire conversation without being disrupted by noise or distance.

You could do it too, and you wouldn’t even have to be fluent to communicate and have fun conversations.  

Learning sign language for convenience is just the beginning. Other than making things even easier for ourselves, we would be turning our world into a more inclusive community, opening doors for millions.

One example is Helen Keller, an American author and educator who did not know any languages until she was six years old. Although she was perfectly healthy before developing a febrile illness that left her both deaf and blind at 18 months, she didn’t have any way to communicate her needs after her illness without being violent. That is, until she learned sign language.

This rings true for most people who have significant speech, hearing or visual impairments. However, not being communicate in mainstream culture proves to be a significant disadvantage. Most people we encounter in professional settings such as doctors and lawyers, don’t sign. Could you imagine going to a doctor’s appointment and having private conversations through an interpreter? This is a regular occurrence for those who are deaf.

Our world is all about connection and communication. I am aware of some of the struggles many people in our lives experience, and therefore I ask you to love and include those who are different. We can make things easier for ourselves and for others if we learn sign language. I hope one day everyone can discover the love and joy which comes with communicating differently and with greater love and care for others.

–Anna Lazenby

Chugiak, Alaska

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