Lawmaker pushes for American Sign Language to be legally recognized language in Neb.

Published: Jan. 7, 2020 at 6:23 AM CST
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Imagine your state doesn't see the language you use as an actual language. That's the case for some in Nebraska. Nebraska is one of five states that doesn't recognize American sign language, also known as ASL. State Senator Anna Wishart is trying to change that with a bill she plans to introduce this legislative season.

The deaf community says once ASL is recognized, it can address issues from helping children who are deaf or hard of hearing learn there is a language for them to creating better employment opportunities.

For the Nebraska community, it's not only recognizing their language, it's also recognizing their culture.

"We're kind of overlooked here in Nebraska because some states they have a larger deaf community, a larger deaf population...Nebraska, we have people who are deaf here we have interpreters here but I just feel like we're overlooked," Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing advocacy specialist Cody McEvoy said.

20% of Nebraskans have some form of hearing loss, and 1% is culturally deaf.

"People maybe don't realize that deaf people have a culture, their own values, their own beliefs a variety of things that are involved in being culturally deaf," McEvoy said.

ASL is the fourth most recognized language. But not legally recognizing it in Nebraska means a lack of resources and acceptance, so a bill is being introduced.

"Once it's passed it's important to get us accessibility, recognize the barriers, help us break down those barriers and help us on the legal side," Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing advocacy specialist Dillon Curren said.

Iowa recognized ASL as a language a few years ago. Those at the Council Bluffs school for the Deaf say this decision for Nebraska is a big one.

"If you recognize A-S-L, then you recognize the deaf community. If we choose not to recognize A-S-L that means we are rejecting part of the deaf community," Iowa School of the Deaf assistant principal Bryce Hendricks said.

It's not known what chance this has of passing in the Nebraska legislature, but Six News is told it has strong support from the deaf, hard of hearing and allies in the hearing community.