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ASL stands for American Sign Language, and is a sign language developed by American Deaf people who needed to communicate with each other. It has existed in some form or other as long as there have been Deaf Americans. It is a highly complex language, capable of expressing concrete, subtle, and abstract ideas and emotions. Those who sign can discuss every topic as well as those who speak a spoken language. It has its own grammatical structure and syntax.

ASL is different from a spoken language in that it is visual, not auditory, and is made up of precise movements and hand shapes.

Deaf people consider ASL every bit as natural a language as speakers of a spoken language. It carries cultural values and transmits traditions and heritage, just like a spoken language does.

ASL plays a very special role at RIT where it is the natural language of more than a thousand students. Interpreters and note takers are a common sight in classes which are not signed. Among the speaking students at RIT, ASL is a popular choice for a Liberal Arts concentration.