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The history of involvement of deaf persons in different fields of fine arts such as literature, painting, acting and music in the United States of America dates back to early seventeenth century when paintings were used to portray ancient American settlers in attempts to recognize the American settlers in the artistry world. For instance, most early paintings were done in a special style that was later referred to as the American Style. According to Sonnenstrahl (2009) and Burch (2005), the first well-known American deaf artist was William Mercer who used to paint portraits or scenes of the American Civil War and Native American lifestyles. Other areas of fine arts such as acting, music and literature also had artists, though not as many as painters.

Although there have been thousands of deaf artists of literature or poetry as an area of fine arts in the united states, most of them are not widely known. However, a few are famous and well-known. This research paper reviews one such famous and historical deaf person in the area of fine of arts who has had an impact on the use and acceptance of American Sign Language (ASL) in the United States of America. This research paper also takes into consideration the kind of influence that the person had on deaf culture and deaf community in the United States of America as well as in other parts of the world.

Dr. Clayton Valli

Dr. Clayton Valli was born in February 1951 and died in late 2003. According to Senghas, Dr. Valli was one of the most prominent deaf linguistics in the United States of America. Dr. Clayton Valli was also a renowned poet for the American Sign Language. According to Wilcox, the works of Dr. Clayton Valli greatly helped in legitimization of the American Sign Language. Sonnenstrahl also asserts that artistic works or poems of Clayton Valli also helped in introducing more deaf people to the American Sign Language and into the deaf culture. Dr. Clayton Valli was the first person to attain a doctorate degree in ASL poetry. Most of the poetic works of Dr. Clayton Valli were often influenced by other deaf poets such as Bernard Bragg.

How Dr. Clayton Valli Impacted the Use and Acceptance of ASL and the Kind of Influence he had on Deaf Culture and the Deaf Community

Dr. Clayton Valli impacted the use and acceptance of American Sign Language by helping in the legitimization of ASL as well as introducing more people to the richness of ASL. Dr. Valli also facilitated the introduction of persons with impaired hearing to the deaf culture and the deaf community. This involved introducing deaf people to the values, beliefs, practices and traditions of the deaf community. Dr. Valli also facilitated the use and acceptance of American Sign Language by identifying various features and aspects of ASL poetry as a literacy genre that is capable of existing on its own. According to Senghas, Dr. Valli was a renowned poet who created original works in ASL. Most of the works of Dr. Valli were performed to enthusiastic and indebted audiences in various parts of the United States. Most poems of Dr. Valli involved sophisticated use of hand-shape, various hand and body movements, repetitions as well as different facial expressions. This led to increased use of ASL by deaf persons to express their feelings, hence providing a detailed reflection of the deaf culture and other traditional practices and values of the deaf community.

Dr. Valli also used natural imagery and descriptions to express or put across various insights into deaf experiences and deaf culture. He also introduced the brief hand-shape which makes use of five different types of hand-shape to celebrate the power of sign language to describe various things found on the planet. This greatly impacted the use and acceptance of ASL in the U.S. because many deaf persons could easily communicate and understand one another as well as express their feelings freely.

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In addition, Dr. Valli also used the Dandelion to communicate and put across the persistency and continuity of American Sign Language, despite various depressing and unconstructive efforts by oral poets to weed ASL out. Peters (2007) also asserts that the poems of Dr. Valli also lead to easy learning of the American Sign Language by deaf persons hence facilitated its acceptance amongst deaf people. This also facilitated the spread of deaf culture and values within the deaf community. The poems of Dr. Valli also brought together different deaf persons, hence creating strong relationships and connection amongst deaf people. This also helped in creating a comprehensive understanding amongst members of the deaf community. Dr. Clayton Valli also used poetry to label the deaf community using specific symbols. The deaf people usually used these symbols to identify themselves. As a result, the deaf culture could be easily spread amongst members of the deaf community. Dr. Valli also co-authored various influential books such as Introduction to the Linguistics of American Sign Language and The Gallaudet Dictionary of American Sign Language that have been very useful to the deaf community.

In addition to teaching ASL and conducting various research studies on America Sign Language at Gallaudet University, Dr. Valli was also actively involved in the creation and promotion of a worldwide movement which aimed at promoting and encouraging the use of American Sign Language as a first-language curriculum for children with hearing impairments. The curriculum has enabled deaf children to communicate with each other easily. As Peters (2007) asserts, ASL is currently used as a primary means of communication for the deaf community both in the United States of America as well as in other countries.


I would like to conclude that in addition to impacting the use and acceptance of ASL and influencing the deaf culture and community, Dr. Clayton Valli was also an inspiration to many other deaf persons. In my opinion, an individual can truly learn so much about the deaf community by simply looking at the artistic works and poems produced by Dr. Valli. The poems of Dr. Valli have also brought together deaf people through creation of strong interpersonal relationships and links. This is because deaf persons can easily share their life experiences through ASL poetry. As most artists often influence the cultures of their respective communities, so did Dr. Clayton Valli influenced the deaf vulture. Generally, Dr. Valli made tremendous contributions to ASL literature.

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