The sign "DEAF-SCHOOL" uses the same movement as the sign for "SCHOOL" but the handshape for each hand is an "i." The
letter "i" is associated with the concept of an "institution." Deaf Schools used to be commonly thought of as
"institutions" or places where Deaf were "sent away to."
However, in the Deaf community, Deaf Schools are traditionally considered a source of pride.
"Deaf School" means
"a State-run Residential School for the Deaf"
Use "i" handshapes. The dominant hand moves, the base hand is
Sample sentence: "Did you go to a Deaf school?" = "DEAF-SCHOOL YOU?"
DEAF-SCHOOL (Version 2)
There is another version of this sign that is done similar to the version
above except that the base hand is in a palm-down "S"-hand. The
dominant hand is still in an "i"-hand and still makes two downward
The term "Residential school for the Deaf" means "Deaf School." It can also be used to mean:
campus, institute or institution. (But I don't recommend using it to
mean "campus" as in a college campus. For that, just sign
"COLLEGE" and if you need to you can add the "location / thereabouts" sign.)
The sign for "Deaf School" is an initialized form of the sign "SCHOOL." Why
the "i" handshape? The "i" handshape refers to the concept of an
"institution." Deaf people used to be "institutionalized" into State-run
In the Deaf world, when we ask someone if they attended a "Deaf School" what
we mean is "Did you attend a State-run Residential School for the Deaf?" Students live there during the week and go home on weekends or school holidays--(depending on the program).
If the school wasn't run by the State and if it didn't have a residential
component then it wasn't a "Deaf School." Instead it would labeled
with some other term: "Deaf Day Program," "Deaf Charter School," "Deaf
Inclusion Program," etc.
* Most Deaf people are proud of having attended a “Deaf-school.” It
is culturally similar to the "Hearing world" practice of having attended a
prestigious boarding school. Rich Hearing people might speak with pride
regarding having attended certain "boarding schools" or
"prep schools." Culturally Deaf people (rather than those who
are merely physically deaf) express pride at having attended a Deaf school.
DEAF-SCHOOL: While it is true
that you can sign DEAF and SCHOOL as separate signs to mean “Deaf school” I
want to make sure students know the “I” handshape version. There are two
variations of this version: A variation in which only the dominant hand has
an “I” handshape, and a version where both hands have an “I” handshape.