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April 16, 2005

Town with sign language as official language

Architects and town planners yesterday began drawing up blueprints for the first town built entirely for deaf people in the US.

Almost 100 families, from London to Australia, have reserved space in the South Dakota village, where all business will be conducted in sign language.

Future residents hope to become fully integrated in the day-to-day life, with every element designed specifically for deaf or hard of hearing people.

Buildings will incorporate glass for increased visibility, emergency services will rely on lights as opposed to sirens, while shops, restaurants, petrol stations, hotels and schools will be required to use sign language.

Marvin Miller, 33, who conceived the plan, hopes the building work will begin later this year. "Society isn't doing that great a job of 'integrating' us," Mr Miller, who is deaf, told the New York Times.

"My children don't see role models in their lives - mayors, factory managers, postal workers, business owners. So we're setting up a place to show our unique culture, our unique society."

The creators insist that the town, which will have a population of 2,500, will not be the sole reserve of deaf people. The only commitment asked by those intending to move there is that they live in an environment based on sight and American sign language. Opponents fear that the town will only serve to further isolate deaf people.

The town will be called Laurent after Laurent Clerc, a French educator of deaf people from the 1800s. The 92 families who have already reserved spaces will be expected to put down deposits for property within the next few months.

April 16, 2005 in Info, World News | Permalink

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