Va. students could see increased access to American Sign Language courses

American Sign Language_704899

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Virginia high school students might soon have another option when it comes to picking a foreign language to study.

A bill making its way through the General Assembly would increase access to American Sign Language (ASL) courses.

In 2011, lawmakers voted to recognize ASL as a foreign language in schools, but this year Del. Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) is trying to take it a step further.

“What we found out now is that a lot of schools in our rural parts of the state just don’t have the resources to do that,” said Bell.

His HB84 would let students who do not have ASL classes at their school get credit by taking it at a comprehensive community college or through an approved online course.

“It opens up an opportunity that exists in a lot of places to students that otherwise wouldn’t have it,” said Bell.

Matt Burton helps people connect using ASL.

He is an interpreter and helps run ASL Champs, which offers community sign language classes in the Richmond area.

He believes the bill could have a positive impact.

“With sign language, it’s such an underserved community and underserved language,” he said. “The more availability you have to it, the better it’s going to be,” said Burton.

The bill got unanimous support in the House. It made it out of a Senate committee on a unanimous vote. It now heads to the Senate floor.

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