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The American Sign Language Program welcomes students from the state of Minnesota, around the country, and the world. Our ASL Program aims to create a learning culture that is inclusive for all. We embrace a belief that the learning community is enriched and enhanced by the dimensions of diversity and identity including, but not limited to: race, color, ethnicity and national origins, gender and gender identity, age, sexuality, marital status, parental status, socioeconomic status, age, culture, disability (physical and mental ability), political beliefs, and religious beliefs. All the dimensions of diversity our students and faculty bring to our ASL classes are viewed as a positive gain, strength, resource, and benefit. Everyone deserves to feel respected, included, safe, and challenged. Our work in evaluating and advancing the curriculum through racial lens in terms of promoting inclusion, equity, diversity, etc. is continuous and evolving.
Another element of diversity that we need to consider is language use because of audism in the Deaf community. (We use "Deaf" as an inclusive term for all Deaf, hard of hearing, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, and late-deafened.) Deaf people have faced generations of endless systematic discrimination, communication barriers, and/or hostile attitudes toward ASL or any other signed languages due to audism. Audism reflects the pathological and medical view of deafness as a disability that must be fixed and is a type of discrimination or prejudice against Deaf people. Audism is the belief that one must be able to hear and speak a spoken language to be successful in life. One of the most common forms of audism is the notion that spoken languages are superior to signed languages and see signed languages as a ‘tool’ rather than a ‘language’ and is used as a last resort for language acquisition with Deaf children. Language modalities - signed languages and spoken languages - need to be seen as equal and fully inclusive for all people.
Audism exists when one has a lack of understanding of the Deaf community, refuses to accommodate to provide full access for those who cannot hear, refuses/fails to use signed language in the presence of a Deaf person even though the person knows the signed language (e.g. ASL), and attempts to have Deaf people conform to the hearing world. The primary consequence of audism is language deprivation and this may affect a Deaf person’s language identity; employment; higher education; living circumstances; mental health services; overall mental, cognitive, social, and emotional health.
ASL is the target language in all of our classes and will be used as a way of communicating first to help students learn the language naturally and organically. This includes certain expectations including, but not limited to: refraining from using spoken language in the presence of a Deaf person, refraining from using voices with fellow classmates in the classroom in order to learn ASL, following Deaf culture norms at Deaf community events outside the classroom, and limited written English. The ASL Program’s primary goal is to help students learn that the Deaf community is a social, cultural, and linguistic minority. A secondary goal is to help students recognize and understand one’s privileges and power dynamics in signing and speaking communities and to understand the importance of allyship within the Deaf and ASL communities.
The Department of Educational Psychology is deeply committed to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in our undergraduate and graduate programs, in our teaching and learning, in our research and clinical practice, and in our outreach and service across fields of educational psychology. Our goal is to be a welcoming and affirming place where all faculty, staff, and students— Asian, Asian-American and Pacific Islander, Black, Indigenous, people of color, LGBTQI*A, international scholars, those with disabilities, Deaf people, those with intersecting identities, and other members of diverse groups—feel supported to attain and exceed their expectations. Our department strives for social justice and to be a place where respectful exchanges of ideas allow us to embrace the power of diversity of perspectives and backgrounds to enrich us all.