Jobs Using Sign Language

I Have Learned Sign Language. What Can I Do With It?

Two business executives using American sign language. Credit: Ron Chapple / Getty Images

As more hearing and deaf people learn sign language, the range of careers open to that skill have broadened. In addition to traditional careers like interpreting, new career possibilities open up as technology evolves.

What Is American Sign Language (ASL)?

American Sign Language is a complete and complex language consisting of hand movements, facial expressions and posturing. American Sign Language is one of several communication options available to people who are either deaf or with hearing problems.

Interestingly, there is also British Sign Language (BSL), which is different from ASL; people with ASL may not understand BSL.

The exact origin of ASL is unclear. The roots of ASL probably date back about 200 years and involve the mixture of local sign languages with Langue des Signes Fran├žaise (LSF), or French sign language. Of note, ASL has evolved and today it is different from LSF.

Education

In education, there is always a need for people who know sign language. Within the education field can be found teachers at deaf schools, special education teachers, and college professors at the deaf colleges Gallaudet University and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) and other deaf programs within colleges. Another education-related career is working with deafblind students using a tactile form of sign language.

Government

Federal, state, and local government agencies offer opportunities to people skilled in sign language.

Such people can be found in equal opportunity offices, or working as deaf and hard of hearing specialists at vocational rehabilitation agencies and state commissions for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Health

Medical professionals who know sign language are in demand. There are some deaf doctors and dentists.

These deaf (or hearing) doctors and dentists went to regular medical school and learned sign language outside of medical school.

Interpreting

One example of an interpreting-related career that has evolved is managing sign language video relay services, and video remote interpreting services. Deaf people can manage these relay services, so this career is not limited to hearing sign language interpreters.

In addition, interpreters can be found in multiple environments. Interpreters are in government agencies, courtrooms, hospitals, schools, museums, amusement parks, theaters, and more. Deaf people can also work as deaf interpreters for deaf people with special needs.

Recreation

Travel agents and tour guides that know sign language can be found working in specialized deaf programs at travel and tour agencies, or even running their own agencies.

Social Services

Police officers who can sign are much needed. A few work at Gallaudet University and NTID. Social workers who know sign language are also needed.

Psychologists who know sign language are employed at schools for the deaf and colleges as counselors, and can also work for private and government mental health service providers.

Teaching Sign Language

Sign language teachers can be found at colleges teaching classes, giving private lessons, or leading baby sign language classes. Plus, sign language teachers can work in interpreter training programs.

Therapy

Speech-language pathologists who know sign language can work better with their clients. So can audiologists and occupational therapists.

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