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Advancing Scientific Discourse in American Sign Language

August 10, 2023

Deaf scientists who use American Sign Language (ASL) need to be able to communicate specialized concepts with ease. Because deaf individuals — here we use ‘deaf’ broadly to refer to the full kaleidoscope of deaf experiences — have historically been under-represented in science, the linguistic capabilities of ASL have yet to be fully explored for scientific discourse. As a consequence, deaf scientists may not have the necessary tools to effectively articulate their work. Nowadays, with improved educational opportunities and communication access, there are more deaf ASL users who are experts in scientific fields. Through their scientific work, these researchers finally have opportunities to expand ASL by incorporating new technical signs and experimenting with best practices for communication. In this Viewpoint, four deaf scientists — a quantum physicist, a marine ecologist, an immunologist and an organic chemist — discuss their experiences in developing scientific lexicons and the resulting shift in their science communication.

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Source: Nature