An interview with William G. Vicars, EdD (a.k.a. "Dr. Bill" of
Lifeprint.com), by Elizabeth Woodall:
1. How has teaching students American Sign Language promoted
ASL is our language. It belongs to the Deaf. By teaching it to
others we are sharing a part of our world. ASL is the key to
entering the Deaf world. By becoming proficient in ASL a student
is able to enter the Deaf community and interact with its
citizens and thereby transition from a spectator to a
2. What do you discuss
with a student who is interested in majoring in Deaf studies?
I ask them how they plan to make money in the future. I
encourage them to do a job search now, up front. If they are not
seeing the types of jobs and opportunities they want to apply
for now, it would be silly to think that plenty of jobs will
materialize a few years from now when they have that degree in
3. How has working in the
Deaf Studies department affected you?
It has made me strive to be gentle and wise. (Still working on
it mind you.) I come from an entrepreneurial background. The
transition to a full-time university setting has necessitated
learning to navigate bureaucracy and politics. On the bright
side, I’ve developed some wonderful – truly awesome –
friendships with coworkers and former students.
4. What would you say are
some of the ways to use a Deaf Studies degree?
The Deaf Studies degree is a stepping stone to graduate-level
work. The degree makes a wonderful “second” bachelors to almost
any other degree. That’s why I ask students how they plan to
make money after they graduate. If you have a degree in some
other field with which you can actually “earn money” then this
degree will enhance that. The degree is also good for
interpreters who need bachelors in order to take the national
interpreter certification exam.
5. Is teaching ASL to
young children who are Deaf important to you? Why or why not?
It is important to me that it gets done. Not that I do it
personally. I consider it neglect and a form of “passive abuse”
if a Deaf child is not taught how to communicate visually.
6. How do you suggest a
student gets their foot in the door to teaching Deaf children?
Learn ASL “very well.” Get a masters degree in Deaf Education.
Choose a couple of academic topics which you would like to teach
to Deaf children and become a subject expert in those topics.
Move next door to a Deaf School. Marry the superintendent.
7. What is one thing you
make sure to spread awareness about?
It is a free online resource for ASL students, teachers, and
interpreters, as well as parents of Deaf children.
8. Those who are educated
know that being Deaf should not be considered a disability, how
can this be spread more?
Really? Being Deaf shouldn’t be considered a disability? So if
we shouldn’t consider it a disability does that mean we should
cut all the supplemental income programs? Get rid of “SSI?” Stop
providing funding from Vocational Rehabilitation programs for
Deaf students to attend college for free? Stop mandating the
provision of interpreters for the Deaf and auxiliary aids? Turn
off the Video Phone Relay services. And close down all of the
“Deaf schools?” The moment legislators stop regarding being Deaf
as a disability, the money stops flowing. I think those who are
“really” educated, recognize that nearly everyone has or will at
some point have “a disability” (If you don’t think so, wait till
you are 80 years old and let’s revisit this conversation) but
that focusing on what people “can’t do” and trying to make
everyone “the same” is a serious waste of time and effort.
Instead of spending $80,000 putting a cochlear implant in a kid
trying to make him “hearing” maybe we should invest
that $80,000 in his education and instead make him brilliant?
9. What do ASL and English
share as languages? How do they differ?
That question has a book-length answer. For the answer, see:
“Linguistics of American Sign Language: An Introduction, 4th
Ed., by Clayton Valli, Ceil Lucas, and Kristin J. Mulrooney.”
10. What other jobs are
available to those who major in Deaf studies other than
Majoring in Deaf Studies qualifies you for very little
other than being a teacher’s aid or applying to graduate school.
Majoring in Deaf Studies doesn’t even qualify you to
“interpret.” For that you will need to attend an “interpreter
preparation program” such as the one at
River College. I recommend that Deaf Studies
majors double major in some other highly employable field such
as “nursing” or plan on going to graduate school.