Thursday, September 24, 2020

ASL Bible now available

ASL Bible Now Available

By Rev. Leo Yates, Jr.

The internet has brought new options in accessibility for e-books to phones and tablets for people who prefer the option. A new option is now fully available for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people through Deaf Missions. This non-profit Christian organization provides support, advocacy, and resources for Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing people. They have recently released the ASL Bible. Named ASLV (American Sign Language Version), this video-accessible version offers Deaf and hard-of-hearing users the option to view the Bible, as opposed to reading it, in their own language. This not only better encourages Deaf and hard-of-hearing to engage in studying Scripture, it reduces misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

The ASLV project was created with the assistance of 53 Deaf translators over a period of thirty-eight years. Similar to the online Bible text, the ASLV video library is available online on the Deaf Mission website and via an app. And it’s free!

screen print of app, shows ASLV bible table of contents

Billy Deters, the president of the United Methodist Congress of the Deaf, a caucus representing and supporting Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and Deafblind persons, shared his excitement that the ASLV is now complete and feels it will better invite Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons to know the Bible. Deaf missionary and member of Lovers Lane United Methodist Church Esther Choi shared, “Deaf people need access in their own language, because for many Deaf and hard-of-hearing people, English is their second language. An ASL version helps them to better understand the Word of God.” Alma Andrews, a Deaf mother and member of Magothy United Methodist Church of the Deaf, who comes from an all-Deaf family (Deaf parents and Deaf siblings) says, “this will help both Deaf families and others, for whom ASL is their primary language, better understand the Bible.” Deaf advocate and trainer in human services, Cindy Blair explains, “I have to read the sentences over and over in order to absorb Scripture where viewing it in my first language helps me to better understand it right away.” “Seeing the body language, facial expressions and signs of ASL, this helps Deaf people to comprehend it better,” says Bryan Branson, president of the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Ministries Committee of Global Ministries.

The ASLV will be welcomed by some sign language interpreters who are new to interpreting in faith settings. Preparation is the norm for interpreters, wherein they read, analyze and practice signing the Scripture (and other parts of the service) before worship. Many interpreters shy away from interpreting worship because they do not wish to sign God’s Word incorrectly. By having immediate access to an ASL version of the Bible may provide them with confidence for how to sign/interpret Scripture. Bishop Peggy Johnson, former pastor of Christ Church of the Deaf, wishes she had this thirty years ago. “I remember Deaf people weeping when they first began viewing the videos (on VHS). It sure made Bible study way more interesting! What a gift. I’m so glad it’s completed.”

The ASLV raises Deaf awareness even further. In fact, Forbes magazine indicated that ASL is the third most-studied language being outnumbered only by Spanish and French. With the ASLV, what a great option to raise interest in ASL by showing the ASL version of Scripture during worship, especially for many churches who are currently live-streaming their worship services. The videos can be downloaded as well.

Rev. Leo Yates, Jr. is a deacon serving in the Baltimore-Washington Conference. He can be reached at for more information.

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