American Sign Language, recognized and accepted as a foreign language since the 1960’s, is a non-written, visual and gestural language that is widely used as the dominant sign language in the United States and Canada. It is a fully developed language, linguistically complete with a complex grammatical structure, semantics, vocabulary and syntax. Instead of relying on sounds, ASL is a combination of handshapes, body movement, hand positions, and facial expressions. Consequently, it is a unique and distinct language which differs from English and other spoken languages, from sign languages used in other countries, and from other English-based sign systems. As with all living languages, ASL continues to grow, change and evolve.
Just as a common “spoken” language defines a culture, American Sign Language defines and supports a distinct community and culture: the Deaf community and Deaf culture. This policy reflects the language, community and culture.