ASL Recognized as Foreign Language in Virginia Schools

  • Apr 14, 2011
  • |
  • publicrelationsdept
By Carissa DiMargo

Virginia students will now be able to use courses in American Sign Language to fulfill a foreign language requirement, reports the Loudoun Times.

Students in an ASL class at Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville, Va., came up with the idea, and persuaded Va. Del Richard Bell to sponsor the bill.

That high school already classifies ASL as a part of its World Languages department, sharing space on the roster with other languages such as Spanish, Latin and Mandarin Chinese. Despite its name, American Sign Language differs from spoken English in several signficant ways, including noun/verb agreement, verb tense and its lack of articles (a, an and the).

“I think the most important thing about the bill’s passage is the fact that it improves access to higher education for a lot of people,” Bell — himself a former special education teacher — told the Loudoun Times.

The bill, HB 1435, states that if a local school board offers an elective course in ASL, it must grant academic credit ” on the same basis as the successful completion of a foreign language course.”

The bill passed through the Virginia House in a 95-3 landslide and through the Senate with a 34-6 vote.

Gov. Bob McDonnell signed the bill Friday. It will take effect July 1.

Gov. Bob McDonnell signed the bill Friday. It will take effect July 1.

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Virginia Relay wants to remind everyone that the latest models of CapTel phones, CapTel 800 and CapTel 800i, are available to people who have a hearing loss or speech disability and qualify financially through the Technology Assistance Program (TAP). Developed by Ultratec®, CapTel allows people who are hard of hearing to read a captioned version of their conversations on the phone’s display window while listening to the voice of the person they are speaking to at the same time. CapTel is ideal for late-deafened adults, people who are deaf and can speak clearly, Voice-Carry-Over (VCO) and amplified phone users and people with cochlear implants.

The Captel 800 works just like a traditional telephone with a standard analog telephone line, but also shows the written captions of the conversation on a brightly lit screen. People who also use high-speed Internet access may consider the Captel 800i, which connects to the Internet to relay the written captions during telephone conversations.

Offered by the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH), TAP provides telecommunication equipment to those whose disabilities prevent them from using a standard telephone. To qualify, you must be a Virginia resident who is deaf, hard of hearing, Deafblind, or speech disabled and meet income eligibility requirements (based on household income and family size). Those who qualify will be provided equipment on a Loan-to-Own (L2O) basis. After a 30 day trial period, recipients can retain ownership of the device if they decide that it has provided a positive impact on their telecommunication needs.

In addition to CapTel 800 and CapTel 800i phones, other assistive devices available through the TAP L2O include:

  • TTYs (text telephones)
  • Amplified telephones
  • Voice Carry Over (VCO) phones
  • Outgoing speech amplifier phones
  • Signalers for the phone and door
  • Hearing Carry Over (HCO) phones
  • Other devices available by special request

All devices distributed through TAP carry a one-year manufacturer’s warranty and training is available for the equipment. TAP participants can apply for new equipment every four years.

To apply for a device through TAP, contact the VDDHH outreach office nearest you.  For a list of office locations, visit or call 1-800-552-7917 (voice/text).