Sign language is a form of communication through the use of hands, head, facial expressions, torso, and other body motions. Millions of Americans are hard-of-hearing, deaf, or mute. This is a primary form of communication.

Sign language is its own language. It has its own fundamental features, like all other languages. There are rules for pronunciation, word order, grammar, etc. People who are fluent in sign language are considered bilingual!

Several dialects/forms of sign language were created in varying countries and communities across the world. There is no universal sign language to this day. For example, American Sign Language (ASL), British Sign Language (BSL), and French Sign Language (LSF) are all completely different languages.

American Sign Language was first introduced in the United States in 1814 by Dr. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. He created the first standardized sign language alphabet and symbols for communication in the United States. In the early 1800s, Dr. Gallaudet created deaf education to serve Americans who were hard of hearing, deaf, or mute. The American School for the Deaf was the first public free deaf school in the United States. This institution was established in Connecticut in 1817. Dr. Gallaudet’s son proposed the first collegiate institution for the deaf to Congress in the late 1850s. Legislation was passed in 1864 that established the National Deaf-Mute College at the Columbia Institute. This institution was later named Gallaudet University.

American Sign Language is growing in popularity. Many people are learning American Sign Language voluntarily or through school as a foreign language. Many high schools and colleges/universities offer creditable foreign language electives today.

The Deaf Network of Texas has several links and a digital newsletter to help you learn more about American Sign Language at The Deaf Network of Texas. Online resources are available to learn American Sign Language, as well. The American Sign Language University offers several free lessons and instructional videos. These can be found at Life Print. Other useful resources for learning sign language are Signing Savvy, Start ASL, and Hand Speak.

We are in the final month of the 86th Legislative Session. Sine Die, the final day, of this Session is May 27th. Until then, the Legislature will continue to hold hearings over bills in committees and decide matters in the House and Senate Chambers. To look up and/or track legislation that interests you, please visit Texas Legislature Online. You are able to look up legislation by word, phrase, or bill number in the top-middle section of this page. The left of the page has several links that will connect you to the the Texas House of Representatives homepage and to the Texas Senate homepage.

To receive alerts of bills that interest you, please visit Texas Legislature Online My TLO Login . You can create a free account by clicking on “New User” underneath the password box. Once you’ve created your login, you will see a line full of empty boxes. Under “bill”, you type in the bill number and leave the next box as “any category”. This will send you alerts each time the bill moves through the legislative process. You can also add notes. Finally, select “Add Bill”.

If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. Please always feel free to contact my office if you have any questions or issues regarding a Texas state agency, or if you would like to contact my office regarding constituent services. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.texas.gov or at 512-463-0672