Signing as a way of life

Manny Martin is using his two hands and fingers to make a very specific gesture and shape, and is asking “Why is that a week?” He gestures again and asks his students, “Why is that a month?” And then he explains the movement: “You go down the calendar” — “and then corrects a student. “Is your palm facing you?”
These are the specifics of American Sign Language, which Martin has been teaching for the past 25 years. He is currently offering a class at the Island Free Library.
On this day he’s in one of the basement rooms with a handful of students. When the room clears, he talks about how he became interested in ASL.
It was 1984 and he and his wife Linda had no children and no pets, but they were suddenly “approached by a friend who asked us about taking in a foster child who was 13.” The couple’s first reaction, he said, was “no way.” When they were told the child was deaf, the answer became, as Martin put it, a “double no.” He and his wife were in the dry cleaning business at the

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