It has come to our attention that Scott Community College is offering American Sign Language (ASL) classes and an ASL summer camp taught by hearing teachers. This is concerning because hearing people are being hired for these positions instead of deaf instructors, which is oppressive and discriminatory. We are bringing this to your attention so you can remedy the situation quickly.

Whenever possible, deaf people should be sought out to teach ASL classes. ASL is the language of the deaf community and only exists because of deaf people. It is cultural appropriation to use the language of the deaf community to make money for your institution without including deaf people in the instruction and provision of those classes. When hearing people are chosen to teach ASL, it is a form of ableism and audism. We must emphasize, hearing people teaching ASL classes when there are deaf people who are willing and able to teach contributes to the systematic oppression of deaf people.

Furthermore, it is in the best interest of students to learn ASL from a deaf teacher. It will increase the students’ confidence when meeting deaf people in their communities and improve their ASL skills more quickly. Often when students are taught by hearing teachers, the students will feel awkward when meeting deaf people, and their ASL fluency suffers.

We have learned that the staff of the ASL Interpreting Department is all hearing people. Before, there were several deaf teachers and tutors. This makes us ask what it is about the department that is causing the loss of deaf employees. We are concerned it will impact the deaf community in Quad-Cities. We are asking that you require all ASL and Interpreting teachers have a bachelor's degree. Right now, deaf teachers must have a bachelor's degree, but hearing teachers can have only an associates degree or professional license.

This is not an option for deaf teachers. It is creating a barrier for deaf people to have the opportunity for employment at SCC. We ask that you make all teachers meet the same requirements, and not create more strict requirements for deaf people, who already face many barriers that hearing people do not have. Our recommendation is that you begin the process of soliciting applications for deaf teachers as soon as possible. We can tell you about some online places to advertise ASL teaching jobs around the country, such as through Gallaudet University and American Sign Language Teachers Association.

Students who attend these classes benefit by learning a new language and culture, and many who become interpreters have successful careers with economic benefits based on their knowledge of ASL. SCC gains financially from attracting students to ASL classes. Deaf teachers should also have the opportunity for economic benefit of teaching our language and culture of ASL.

I would be happy to discuss this with college officials in a meeting.

Hillard is president of Quad-Cities Deaf Club. 

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