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Friday, November 1, 2013

Do You Have Anything That Will Help Me Learn Medical Sign Language?

"I work in a clinic and some of our clients are deaf.  I need to learn some basic medical sign language in order to discover the problem and then give them the doctor's instructions.  Do you have anything that  will help me?"  The staff of the Newton Falls Public Library can understand why having this ability would be very important in making sure anyone dealing with medical issues has the correct information.

Searching our shared CLEVNET catalog, we found in our collection "The American Sign Language Handshape Dictionary" by Richard A. Tennant for beginning signing and "Intermediate Conversational Sign Language: American Sign Language with English Translations" by Willard J. Madsen.  Madsen's book contained lessons for At the Dentist, In the Hospital, and At the Doctor's Office.  Each lesson included useful medical related signs.

While these were acceptable, our patron expressed a concern that in trying to mimic signs from a book, she would not do them correctly.  Could we find her a DVD with similar information?  The Newton Falls Public Library owns "Common Expressions in American Sign Language" but the this did not seem to have the specifics our patron needed.  In our shared catalog, we located the DVD "Emergency Medical Words & Sentences in American Sign Language" and our patron placed a hold on this item.  While she waits for it to arrive at our library, we searched the Internet and located the websites,, and that she can access for online instructional training.  There are also downloadable e-Books, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Conversational Sign Language Illustrated" by Carole Lazorisak and "Sign Language Made Simple: A Complete Introduction to American Sign Language" by Karen Lewis available in the Clevnet emedia collection that our patron can access using her Newton Falls Public Library card.

UPDATE 11/15/13:

The Newton Falls Public Library reference staff always enjoys receiving comments and input about our Ask The Librarian articles.  The recent column about signing in the medical field elicited a call from a certified sign language instructor.

Our caller wanted our readers to be sure to understand that there is a great difference between conversational signing and what is needed to deal properly with medical issues.  Miscommunication in this type of signing can result in professional liability lawsuits.  It is recommended that clinics requiring assistance in communicating with their hearing impaired clients bring in a professional interpreter.  The cost of the professional can be written off as a business expense by the clinic.  Our caller also said that this may be an issue for clinics dealing with foreign language speakers.

We appreciated receiving this additional information and will be informing the patron who asked the original question.

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