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Interview:  Bill Vicars

Interviewer: Elizabeth Woodall:
Interviewee:  William Vicars, Ed.D.  (Dr. Bill)
Date:  9/28/2011
[via email] 


An interview with William G. Vicars, EdD (a.k.a. "Dr. Bill" of,  by Elizabeth Woodall:

1. How has teaching students American Sign Language promoted Deaf awareness?

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 participant.

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 hand.


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?

My website: 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.” Happy reading.


10. What other jobs are available to those who major in Deaf studies other than interpreting?

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 American 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.


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