My youngest daughter had been teaching herself American Sign Language for a couple of years by watching YouTube videos. Her interest in learning the language continued to grow to the point where I looked to see if there was a class she could take to expand her education.
In Bankruptcy Court one day, there was an interpreter there for a debtor. I stopped her and told her about my daughter and she told me that she needed to take an in-person class since learning from YouTube there would be no way to get feedback if you were signing correctly. Later, a friend shared on Facebook that the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB) offered classes at their local regional office here in Montgomery. The class was held every Tuesday for eight weeks for an hour and half. Since my daughter was only twelve and couldn’t drive herself to the classes, my husband and I decided we would take the course together!
The Passion to Serve Others
The first night of our class, the instructor asked each student in attendance why they decided to take the ASL course. I can’t tell you how interesting the responses were! There was an emergency room nurse who had the experience of a deaf patient coming into the emergency room and there was no one to interpret what her emergency health needs were. The nurse decided after that experience that she wanted to take the class so that she would be able to find out a patient’s need so she could help. Another student worked at a pediatric dentistry office who had a deaf family who regularly came into their practice. She too wanted to be able to communicate with her patients. Two other students worked at a local university and discovered no one on campus were able to communicate with any deaf university students. Again, they wanted to serve others. Several students were from the Alabama Department of Corrections who wanted to learn to communicate with inmates. And of course, there were other students who wanted to learn because they had a family member who was deaf that they wanted to learn how to communicate with their loved one.
My Experience Taking the Class
My husband and I were there to encourage our daughter’s interest in learning ASL. She was the youngest student there but we quickly learned how much more advanced she was compared to us! The first night of class, a few of the other students thought she was deaf since she was able to communicate through sign language. Although we took the class for our daughter, we quickly loved learning the language. We learned that sign language isn’t just hand movements. It uses facial expressions and hand movements together. It’s not an easy language to learn. Any slight movement of an eyebrow or hand could mean something totally different than what you intended to say!
Montgomery has a large deaf community that has local gatherings that anyone can attend to practice using ASL. The deaf community is very welcoming to those of us who want to learn ASL. This summer, I had a hearing in Opelika with a deaf client and I tried out my newfound baby ASL skills using sign language. He told me he was proud of me! This made my day of course and fueled my desire to become better—or at least as good as my daughter.
Here are some pictures from our last class:
(first picture—not everyone but a few of us who stayed and posed for a picture)
(second picture- Our daughter with our instructor from AIDB)
(bottom picture- My ASL certificate for the AIDB)
Gail Hughes Donaldson is a Managing Partner of the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Montgomery and Opelika, Alabama. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Auburn University at Montgomery, and a Juris Doctorate from Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. She’s been helping families work through the bankruptcy process since she started with Bond & Botes back in 1993 as a paralegal. Read her full bio here.