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RIT ASL History

History of American Sign Language (ASL) at RIT



  • Basic sign language instruction is offered to RIT faculty and staff prior to deaf freshman students arriving at RIT.
  • The first freshman class enters NTID.


  • Free University is established to offer courses in manual communication to RIT faculty, staff, and students.
  • Faculty/Staff Sign Language Program is established.


  • "It’s a Deaf, Deaf World”  experiential workshop is offered for the first time. This workshop continues to be successfully conducted for groups of professionals and community people who have indicated an interest in deaf people.


  • NTID professors develop and publish the Basic Sign Communication curriculum.



  • The RITSign program is established to provide students with the opportunity to learn ASL from their deaf peers.


  • RIT establishes the Summer Provost ASL and Deaf Culture Program for RIT faculty and staff.


  • Dr. Albert Simone is the first RIT president to take a formal ASL course. Professor Sam Holcomb provides tutoring to prepare Dr. Simone to deliver part of his inaugural address in sign language.


  • NTID produces The American Sign Language Vocabulary CD-ROM dictionary.
  • RIT’s Center for Residence Life establishes the No Voice Zone to teach residents ASL and Deaf culture and to provide entertainment and social opportunities.


  • NTID develops and publishes the American Sign Language Video Dictionary & Inflection Guide.


  • Dr. William Destler, RIT’s new president, takes private ASL instruction from Sam Holcomb and continues the tradition of signing portions of his commencement address in ASL.
  • RIT offers ASL courses to College of Liberal Arts students for modern language credit.


  • ASL and Deaf Culture are showcased at the first IMAGINE RIT festival.


  • NTID faculty members develop and publish the ASL at Work Teacher's Manual and Student Text.


  • The RIT ASL & Deaf Studies Community Center (RADSCC) is opened in the Student Alumni Union.