USA (MNN) — April is National Deaf History Month in the United States, raising awareness for the Deaf community. The first public school for Deaf children opened in April 1817. Gallaudet University – the first and only university for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students – opened on April 8, 1864.
Deaf History Month also commemorates the contributions of Deaf people to U.S. society. For example – did you know a Deaf woman started the Girl Scouts? Or that a Deaf American football team invented the huddle in 1892?
In 2020, Deaf Mission finished the world’s first-ever sign language Bible.
“I would encourage folks to go online and look up the American Sign Language Version (ASLV) of the Bible,” Wycliffe USA’s Andy Keener says.
“When [you] come across Deaf people, share it with them. Let them know the Bible is available in their language.”
Completing the ASLV was no small feat for Deaf believers. Dozens of the world’s 350 sign languages have portions of Scripture, but none had a complete Bible before 2020.
“Some Deaf have told me, ‘We’re the last to hear about the new train schedule. We’re the last ones that heard about COVID. And, unfortunately, it seems like we’re the last ones to get the Gospel,’” Keener says.
“When they (Deaf) engage with Scripture, we want them to be able to engage with it in the language that serves them the best, which is a sign language.”
Less than two percent of the world’s 70 million Deaf people have access to the Good News of Jesus. Wycliffe USA works to change that by empowering Deaf Bible translators and Deaf ministries.
“A lot of sign languages trace their roots back to American Sign Language. Wycliffe is exploring opportunities to take that (the ASLV) and use [it] as a jumping-off point to help related sign languages,” Keener says.
Find your place in the story here.
“It starts with making yourself educated about the Deaf. If you have a cousin who’s Deaf or a neighbor who’s Deaf, recognize that English is probably not their first language,” Keener says.
“American Sign Language, the main sign language of Deaf people here in the United States, is not related to English. It’s a very different language structurally, and it’s the language that most Deaf people think and process in.”
Header and story images courtesy of Deaf Mission.