She slowly and gently formed her fingers into the letters “A” and then two “N’s” to spell her name. Stepping into the fifth week of the Freeport Memorial Library’s American Sign Language class, Freeporter Ann Marie Farrell made efforts to only communicate with her hands. Though her hands moved in slow motion, her other classmates kept their eyes locked to her fingers.
Freeport Memorial Library partnered with ASL instructor, Russell Kane, a retired ASL professor from Nassau Community College, to provide classes to the local community. Kane is also the author of two novels, “Fighting the Long Sorrow” and “Signs of Rebirth.” He is a Hofstra University and Gallaudet University alumnus.
Participating in the eight-week ASL classes, according to Farrell has given her an opportunity to connect with a family a deaf family in the community. Other students like Freeporters Arianna Covington and Annette Brundidge said taking the class meant tapping into a new culture and new community.
The purpose of the classes, according to Kane, is to open the lines of communications between the hearing and deaf communities.
“I grew up without ASL,” Kane signed and shared it was bitter sweet that he didn’t get to learn ASL until in the later part of his life. “I wondered what my life would have been had I learned ASL earlier.”
Though he is deaf and can read lips, he admits that even the best lip readers only can keep up with about 30 percent of what is said.
Kane signed that approximately 90 percent of deaf children come from hearing families and of those children approximately 80 percent don’t have ASL skills.
“It’s sad, because parents can’t sign stories to their children,” he signed.
He added that through the library’s ASL classes there is an opportunity to educate neighbors and friends that may one day be a help, support or share a leisure signing conversation with someone from the deaf community.