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American Sign Language bill becomes law

photoHitchens and members of her class pose with Delegate Bell in Richmond. Courtesy Photo/Jessica McCan

The fight is over for supporters of House Bill 1435, a piece of legislation that will place American Sign Language, or ASL, on the same level as other power languages when it comes to satisfying foreign language requirements.

The proposal for the bill is the brainchild of students in an ASL class at Loudoun Valley High School—who convinced Delegate Richard “Dickie” Bell (R-20), a former special education teacher, to sponsor the bill. It was prefiled and printed on Nov. 4, 2010, and then continued to take Virginia legislation by storm—first clearing a subcommittee vote 6-1, passing the House in a 95-3 landslide, and finally cruising through the Senate 34-6.

On Gov. Bob McDonnell’s first opportunity to sign the bill, forcing it into law, he balked—sending the bill back for slight language changes. But there would be no more controversy, as McDonnell put pen to paper on April 8—solidifying the bill, which will take effect on July 1.

“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 said. “It breaks down barriers between cultures, and it improves the ways we can communicate.

Despite Bell’s name on the bill, he credits the Loudoun Valley class that set everything in motion.

“It’s quite an accomplishment,” Bell said. “We all knew the need for this legislation for ASL. The [Loudoun Valley students] came up with a great idea and have made a difference.”


Good to know.

Now you’ll just have to convince all the colleges around the country to accept this as a “foreign” language….

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