Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
FILE - The Utah State Senate meet during the closing session of the Utah State Legislature in Salt Lake City Thursday, March 8, 2012.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Senate passed a joint resolution Thursday recognizing educators of the deaf and instructors of American Sign Language while a class from the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind applauded from the balcony.

The sponsor of the joint resolution, Senate Minority Caucus Manger Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, read it to the Senate.

It acknowledges the commonly held belief that American Sign Language began in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1817. It acknowledges Abraham Lincoln signing the charter for the first school for advanced education of the deaf and blind, Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., in 1864.

It acknowledges the founding of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind in 1884 and the 133 years of contributions it has made to Utahns and American society. It concludes with a continuing pledge from the Legislature to support the deaf community in the state.

The Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind held classes earlier in the morning at the Capitol to meet with lawmakers.

Gayla Ward, an educator for the blind with Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind, showed the students working with a computer device called a BrailleNote Apex. She explained that such devices are like computers with refreshing braille instead of a computer screen.

Stephen Persinger, president of the Utah Association for the Deaf, spoke in ASL through an interpreter.

The association works closely with the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind and also with the deaf community, he said, making sure there are interpreters at hospitals, or that movie theaters have caption options.

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It also watches legislation that may affect the deaf community, like HB115, which "seeks to protect Utah businesses from the bad faith use of demand letters asserting violation of the public accommodations protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act." The group opposes the bill.

"The deaf people as a whole are unique in what we have experienced, how we've grown up. We do have our own language and our own culture. It's rich and it's different, and we use facial expression and body language, and … it's a very visual language, and it makes us unique," Persinger said.