After six months of writing, discussion and presentation, the Tennessee State Legislature has passed a bill that will allow Tennessee students to take American Sign Language as a means to achieve their foreign language requirements.
The bill was created by Maryville College students Molly Ridgeway and Josh Anderson in November of 2017 as part of the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature’s General Assembly (TISL).
What started off as a mock legislature exercise has now officially become Tennessee State Law. Ridgeway and Anderson both worked hard to craft the bill and were able to take it to the real Tennessee State Legislature with the help of Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville) and Rep. Roger Kane (R-Knoxville) who proposed the bill to the Tennessee General Assembly.
Anderson expressed both his excitement and appreciation in a Facebook post on April 24, updating the community on the status of the bill prior to being signed by the Govenor.
“American Sign Language Bill Update: SB 524/HB 462 has passed the Tennessee General Assembly unanimously!!! Now it goes to the Governor’s desk!” said Anderson. “Thank you to everyone who has supported us through the legislature! Especially thank you to our wonderful sponsors Senator Becky Duncan Massey and Representative Roger Kane.”
Ridgeway and Anderson also traveled to Nashville to speak on behalf of their bill. After making appearances in Nashville in March, the couple waited eagerly to see what would happen with their bill. Ridgeway herself is non-verbal and Anderson has strong ties to the deaf community as well through family. Both stated the importance of the bill to them on a personal level as well as in terms of the community.
Ridgeway stated that this bill will not only help educate the public on how to communicate with the deaf and non-verbal community, but can also help create jobs for people with these disabilities.
In a previous article, Anderson mentioned that Molly was the major inspiration behind the bill. However, the Maryville College couple has made one major leap in their personal lives as well. Since proposing the bill, Anderson and Ridgeway have celebrated an engagement. Anderson proposed to Ridgeway over Easter weekend at her favorite spot back home in Alabama.
Both the couple, and the deaf community, look forward to an exciting year of changed for the deaf and non-verbal community.