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"Signing with physical limitations"

Dear Dr. Bill,
Thank you so much for make all your material available for free for self study. I am learning (or at least trying to learn) ASL for fun and am really enjoying your lessons. I am starting to practice finger spelling but I ran into a surprise for me: for the letter W I cannot keep my three middle finger straight while holding down the pinkie and the thumb. The 3 middle fingers end up like a claw and they will not straighten up any further. I think something in my ring finger ligament will not allow me to fingerspell "W" properly (my dad also has issues with his ring finger ligament) so I was wondering if there is an alternate way of spelling the letter W? If there is not an alternate finger spell, would ASL speakers understand if I finger spell the W with British “accent” (using BSL)?
Diego P.

Dear Diego,
There is not an "alternate" version of "W" that would be less distracting than a clawed version of "W."  Any alternate approach would end up being more distracting than just going ahead and using your somewhat misshapen "W."
Quite a few ASL signers do recognize the British 2-handed Alphabet. Or perhaps I should say they can start at "A" and work their way through to "Z" (but not necessarily recognize whole words fingerspelled quickly in the two handed British alphabet.).
You may wish to spend a few minutes each day stretching your "W."  Suppose you are standing in line at the grocery store or watching a video -- you could stretch your fingers during that time. Stretching may or may not "work" but I suppose the only way you'll know is if you try.

On another but related topic: Those of us in the Deaf community are generally quite a bit more accepting of physical deformities than the mainstream Hearing community. So while you may be bothered by your "W" we generally are not.
Dr. Bill

Sorry this is kind of a weird question, but I have trouble spelling/signing some words because my hand are too 'tight.' ex. my 'Y' or 'yellow' or 'play' or 'still' sign are lame because I can't put my pinky all the way up without bringing the ring finger part of the way. Is this a common thing? And would you happen to know of any exercises where I could improve this flexibility. Again I know you re busy so if you cannot answer this question I completely understand. Thank you for the lessons.
- Eddie

No, a misshapen "Y" is not a "common" thing but it occurs often enough that it is not that big a deal for most everyday communication.  You might perhaps not want to plan on a career in interpreting, but for chatting with Deaf people at a pizza social you should be just fine.
As far as "exercises" to improve your "Y" -- yes, there are things you can do. Your ring finger is jutting out because the ligaments and/or sinews between it and the pinkie are not limber enough and the muscles in your ring finger are not strong enough. Using your non-dominant hand, gently and slowly stretch the pinkie finger of your dominant hand backwards while holding the dominant hand ring finger down will help limber up that area of your hand.  Try putting your dominant hand flat on a table, now lift it up about an inch off the table and bend your ring finger at the large knuckle so that the fingerprint pad is touching the table.  Now push the hand down while trying to hold the hand up with just the ring finger (almost as if you are trying to do a push up using only your ring finger).  That will help build the right muscle. Eventually it is likely that you will be able to form the letter "Y" correctly.  But even if you are not able to do so, it is not "that" big of a deal.
- Dr. Vicars


Also see: Non-Vanilla-Deaf

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