WOU Announces New American Sign Language Assessment Service

Group of students in an American Sign Language class

Western Oregon University continues to be a leader in American Sign Language. Our Regional Resource Center on Deafness (RRCD) is the first to offer a nationwide ASL assessment service (called RSLA) in the western United States. The service uses Sign Language Proficiency Interview (SLPI) conducted in ASL to assess the individuals’ ASL skills.

The service has widespread value to those seeking an external evaluation of their ASL skills. State and federal employees, law enforcement members and others could use this service to provide credibility to their fluency when looking for pay increases, promotions or new jobs. Students could use this service when applying for academic programs requiring prerequisite knowledge of ASL and when looking to begin their career or obtain an internship.

RRCD Director Chad A. Ludwig said the service is for anyone who wants to receive input and guidance on their ASL skills. “SLPI:ASL is the only program that provides feedback to guide the person after we assess their ASL skills.”

The RSLA SLPI:ASL assessment is conducted remotely involving about a 20-minute conversation in ASL between an interviewer and a candidate. Ludwig said the session is videotaped so the evaluator can analyze a person’s skills using natural sign language for communication. The assessment looks at the person’s sign language vocabulary, production, fluency, grammar and comprehension skills.

“We provide a full report on how the person’s ASL skills and feedback on what needs to be done to improve their ranking,” he said, adding rankings go from novice to superior.

The assessment is also used to place students on what level of college coursework they should be in, based on the proficiency of their ASL skills.

The service is valuable for job applicants who need to prove their level of ASL proficiency.

People interested in having their ASL skills evaluated can visit the RRCD’s website and fill out the online form to schedule an appointment.

“We can offer the service to anyone in the United States,” Ludwig said.

In 1980, the SLPI:ASL model was adapted by Bill Newell and Frank Caccamise from the Language/Oral Proficiency Interview (L/OPI), an interview technique for assessing spoken language communication skills. In October 2019, two national trainers from National Technical Institute of the Deaf (NTID), a college of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), visited WOU to guide and train the RSLA team to implement the national SLPI:ASL service.

SLPI:ASL is the only validated proficiency assessment that provides rating and comprehensive diagnostic feedback, providing our candidates with a better understanding of their strengths and areas for improvement to continue toward a higher rating. It is listed on the National Seal of Biliteracy and Oregon State Seal of Biliteracy as an acceptable form for the purpose of demonstrating proficiency in a language other than English.

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