Undergraduate Catalog

Bilingual Education

Gallaudet University was founded with the unique purpose of providing visually accessible higher education for deaf and hard of hearing students. As such, Gallaudet has always been a bilingual institution with instruction taking place through American Sign Language and English. In 2007, the Board of Trustees affirmed Gallaudet's commitment to ASL/English bilingual education through the University's mission statement. The mission commits the University to fostering an intentional, inclusive and supportive environment designed to develop students' academic discourse, critical thinking and career preparation.

Gallaudet's bilingual educational environment is founded on the following four principles

Principle #1: Access

Since its founding in 1864, the cornerstone of the educational design at Gallaudet University has been direct, visually accessible communication among all participants in academic settings. The use of two visually accessible languages - ASL and written English - provides the most universally effective means of direct communication for all Gallaudet students.

Principle #2: Inclusion

Gallaudet University welcomes academically qualified students from diverse language and educational backgrounds and abilities. Typically, Gallaudet students begin their higher education with varying degrees of proficiency in ASL and English, similar to the range of language abilities seen among students in bilingual universities throughout the world. Learning opportunities inside and outside of the classroom guide students toward developing their full linguistic potential. These opportunities include classes and support services for improving students' skills in signed, written and spoken communication.

Principle #3 Academic Discourse

As it applies to Gallaudet, bilingualism does not mean that students have fewer opportunities to learn and use English; rather, just the opposite is true. Through an intentional and integrated use of ASL and English in the classroom, students are provided with multiple approaches to develop academic discourse, an essential component of lifelong learning and success in the workforce. Research shows bilingualism offers a significant intellectual resource, providing students with increased cognitive flexibility and self-awareness of language use. Thus, the bilingual environment at Gallaudet provides a richer context for university-level interaction.

Principle #4: Social and Cultural Resource

In addition to cognitive benefits, bilingualism supports personal development by enhancing students' social and cultural experiences. By being a member of a Gallaudet's bilingual community, students enjoy opportunities to form lasting social bonds with their deaf, hard of hearing and hearing peers. Rather than leading toward isolation, bilingualism at Gallaudet extends the reach of students' life experiences, especially as the use of a sign language facilitates participation in deaf communities throughout the world, opening access to a greater global awareness.

Communication on Campus

Gallaudet University is committed to creating a climate of respect with regards to communication on campus. While no formal policies dictate communication behaviors, two key principles underpin a climate of respect.

Principle #1: Welcome and support new and emerging signers

New and emerging signers are welcomed as full members of the Gallaudet community, and will be supported in their efforts toward improving their ASL skills.

Principle#2: Ongoing commitment to improve

All members of the community commit to improve communication skills in ASL in order to create a barrier-free, visually accessible environment throughout campus.

Classroom Communication:


Instruction at Gallaudet takes advantage of cutting-edge technology, which allows a language-rich learning environment. Students and faculty strive to communicate as clearly as possible, modeling and developing habits of academic discourse in ASL and English.


The ASL proficiency requirements of each graduate program vary. Check individual programs for information relating to ASL proficiency. On the whole, the Graduate School encourages clear and accessible communication for all through the refinement of academic discourse in ASL and English.

American Sign Language Support Services:


Gallaudet University New Signers may enroll in the American Sign Language Program, and will also receive support in ASL and General Studies courses to develop their ASL proficiency. Students in these classes are eligible to receive tutoring in ASL skills through the Tutorial Instructional Program. Students may receive services from the ASLPI.


Consult individual graduate programs for ASL proficiency requirements. Students may receive services from the ASLPI.

English Text Support Services

Students may request captioning services for classes from Academic Technology. See Captioning Services in the Services and Activities chapter of this catalog.