Hello ASL Heroes!
Great to meet you!
I'm Bill Vicars.
My students tend to call me "Dr. Bill" or "Dr. V."
My folks tend to call me Billy.
What my wife calls me depends on a number of factors.
I'm president and owner of the Lifeprint Institute,
a consultation business focusing on technology-enhanced delivery of ASL
Instruction, excursion-based instruction (trips to amusement parks),
and extended-immersion-based program coordination (intense two-week
I also have a "day job." I am full-time tenured Associate
Professor of American Sign Language and Deaf Studies at California State
I am "Deaf/hh." What that
means is I am physically hard-of-hearing and have chosen to live in the Deaf World (e.g. marry
a Deaf woman, use ASL, work in the field of Deaf-Studies, worship at a Deaf
church, devote my time to developing ASL-related resources for others,
I learned ASL
in my youth from a
Deaf woman (Kathy Hadfield-Erwin) who lived in the same small town (Brigham
City, Utah) where I grew up.
Forgive this next bit of information (I
share it because some people want to know their instructor's
Some of my degrees and
certifications (past and/or present) include:
Ed.D. (Education Doctorate) in Deaf Studies/Deaf Education from
(accredited), Masters in Deaf Education (accredited), MCSE
(Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer), MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer),
A+ (COMPTia Computer Technician), N+ (Network Technician), ASLTA
certification (American Sign Language Teachers Association), and "EdNet"
(Distance Education Certificate). Most of which have probably expired
(except the degrees, last I checked they don't have an expiration date).
At one point I studied for and passed the Utah Real Estate License exam,
but as it turns out I didn't want to spend my life trying to lipread clients
from the side while driving them around to look at houses (plus my hearing
aid is almost worthless in a car due to road noise.) Oh well -- at
least it spurred me on to go back to school and get my doctorate.
Some of my current and/or past
experiences and qualifications include:
- Over 20 years experience as a
university-level ASL instructor
- Authored and self-published "Sign Me Up!" (A
really cool 212-page ASL Guide and activity book. Sorry, sold out all
3,000 copies--but I turned it into the Lifeprint website.)
- Directed an 18-month Interpreter Training Workshop (twice!)
- Co-chaired the Disability Law Center's
Consumer Advisory Council (UT)
- Served a term as an elected board member of the Utah Association for
- Parent of a child who attended the Utah State
School for the Deaf pre-school program
- Set up and directed a not-for-profit a 501(c)(3) organization to improve
Deaf access to services
- Served as Advisor to the Sign Language Association (ASL Club)
at Weber State University
(an award winning organization).
- As far as I know, I was the first ASL instructor from Utah to earn
certification from the American Sign Language Teachers Association. A bit of
nostalgia for you -- way back when I first joined ASLTA they called
themselves S.I.G.N. (Sign Instructors Guidance Network). Hooyah!
Yadda, yadda, yadda... and a bunch
of other stuff.
For the past few years I've been focusing on my duties as Coordinator of
the ASL and Deaf Studies
Program at California State University, Sacramento where I teach a variety
of Deaf Studies courses and topics, (ASL linguistics, Classifiers, Medical
Signing, etc.). Don't let the "coordinator" title impress you. It is
just code for "work harder with no extra pay." My colleagues and I take
turns being coordinator every three years and I was glad to do my part.
(My "part" is/was from Fall '09 to Spring of 2012).
For over 20 years now I've enjoyed being married to a
wonderful person named Belinda (Williams) Vicars. We have four terrific orangutans, er, kids.
My wife also teaches ASL.
(She is actually a better ASL teacher than I am -- but at least I tell
better jokes. Or maybe she is just being polite when she laughs? Hmmm. Gotta
think on that.)
She was born deaf as a result of the
rubella epidemic of 1964. (Whoopsie, gave away her age. Shhhh, act
surprised when you find out.) She attended a day-program for the Deaf in
Bakersfield, California. She learned ASL prior to learning how to
talk. She has taught college ASL classes and numerous community
education ASL courses for many years. She's a wonderful mom, and is
rumored to be a great cook. Once
in a while I let her beat me in Scrabble. (It is good for her
People ask us if our children
I tell them my kids are "hard
of listening" (heh). [That isn't a technical term
The older three kids have normal hearing (when they want to).
They understand ASL quite well and tend to sign
when they want something.
The youngest, Sarah, is Deaf/hh. She also has Apert's syndrome. But she is a bundle of
joy and energy. (She's a brave, spunky kid I'll tell
you.) She attended the Utah
State School for the Deaf pre-school day-program. Then she attended a
"special ed" program at a local charter school. Currently she
attends high school here in Sacramento.
We share a home in Sacramento,
with several small furry creatures, (that's pets. The pets are furry, not the kids).
Frequently Asked Questions:
Question: Are you Deaf?
I was born hard-of-hearing and as time goes on I become more and more
For the majority of my life I have lived in the Deaf World (e.g. Deaf
wife, hang out with Deaf friends, use ASL, work in the Deaf-Studies
field, worship at a Deaf church, devote my time to developing ASL-related
resources for others, etc.) I use close-captioning (subtitles) when I
watch videos. I can pretty much understand what people are saying if it is
one-on-one in a quiet environment, I've got my hearing-aid in, and I can see their face. But if
it is a group setting, or if the person is more than a few feet away, has a
mustache, an accent, or a bright light behind them I prefer to have an
Question: Where did you learn ASL?
I started learning ASL as a youth from a Deaf woman, (Kathy Hadfield
of Brigham City, Utah. She later married Mark Erwin -- so she is now
Kathy Erwin.) Then when I grew older
I learned more as I lived with
Deaf roommates, and hung out with other Deaf people. Here are a few of
the experiences that influenced me:
* Worked as a volunteer at the the
Indiana School for the Deaf (as a teacher's assistant in Laura Gaalema's third grade
* Worked as a volunteer for GLAD Orange County Outreach in California
* Worked as a volunteer the (former)
Indiana Branch Office (anybody remember that one?) of the National Association of the Deaf
* Lived on-campus at Gallaudet University during a summer internship program.
* Took night classes at the Oregon School for the Deaf (Salem).
* Participated in a couple hundred hours worth of "American Judicial System"
- related ASL training at a summer program at California State University
* Attended many, many workshops
* Researched ASL Linguistics, ASL acquisition, and Computer Assisted
Language Learning during my doctoral studies Lamar University
* Directed/participated in 15 years of "immersion excursions" to exciting
places with Deaf co-hosts
* Directing an interpreter-training program for Davis County school district
during which I interviewed, hired, and worked closely with many (over 30) Deaf
guest-speakers and/or trainers
And lately I spend much of my time discussing the nuances of ASL with my
d/Deaf colleagues at work.
Question: Are you a member of the "Deaf Community?"
Answer: Almost all of my close friends and associates are tied to the
Deaf Community. For most of my life I've lived in the Deaf World. Serving in
Deaf organizations, setting up Deaf events, working with Deaf people,
teaching ASL, etc.) Belinda and I never expected any of our children
to be Deaf, but Sarah (our fourth) was born with a substantial hearing loss
due to having Aperts (a rare syndrome). Sarah attended the Utah State School for the Deaf pre-school
Question: Are you certified?
hold a doctorate in Deaf Education / Deaf Studies from an accredited university (Lamar
University in Beaumont, Texas). I hold a masters in Deaf Education from
Lamar university. I am (or was -- depending on if I have renewed or not)
certified by the American Sign Language Teachers Association. I was a member of ASLTA back when they were still S.I.G.N.
(Sign Instructors Guidance Network). As
far as I have been able to ascertain, I was the first person from Utah to
become ASLTA certified. (I'm now in California.) When I was much younger I
actually used to be a certified interpreter (I used to put on both hearing aids and
crank them up. It doesn't work anymore though--too Deaf now).
Question: What kind of experience do you have teaching ASL?
Teaching ASL is my life's work. I taught ASL at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah for over a decade.
I have also taught ASL classes and/or workshops at the Utah Community Center
for the Deaf, the IRS, Hill Air Force Base, Defense Depot Ogden Utah, Mills Montessori
School, the Newgate Mall, Your Community Connection of Ogden,
Clearfield Community Schools, Davis County School District, Weber County
School District, Ogden City Corporation, The Sign Language Studio, Lifeprint
Institute, Lamar University in Beaumont Texas, The Sign Language
Association, California State University--Sacramento, and dozens of other
places. (Geeze, I must be getting old to have that many experiences.)
[Editor's note: Since I wrote the above, I've added "Guyana,
South America" to the list. By far the hardest work -- and the most fun.]
Question: I read somewhere that you got a degree from
___________ University. I'm thinking about going with them. Do you
think that program is worth while? t is certainly more affordable then other
programs. Are they fairly well accepted in the professional field?
No. Don't go with ___________.
It seemed like such a good idea at the time to go with ___________ since they were (and I believe still are) approved by the California State Board of
Education. Of the various degrees out there
I (at first) thought they were a good choice.
It was a mistake. I ended up repenting of that mistake by
going BACK to a DIFFERENT school at an accredited university for three
to get an accredited
I went back to school because it became evident to me that to
have "rock solid" credibility I'd have to have a degree from an accredited college.
It is that simple.
So, the second time around I chose Lamar University
(in Beaumont, Texas) because of their excellent program and consistent support for best practices in Deaf Education. They are innovative and were willing to let me
develop new ideas and technology.
Going back to school meant selling my house (at a $30,000 loss) and moving my family of six half-way across the
country -- but it was worth it. I'm glad I did it.
Note: These days
there are a number of accredited doctoral programs out there now with
minimal residency requirements that are certainly worth checking into.
Belinda completed an accredited degree in Creative Writing
from a distance education program offered by Union Institute (an affiliate of
Vermont College). Then she went on to earn an accredited Master of Fine
Arts Degree in Creative Writing through a program in Oregon that combined
distance education with summer residencies. It worked out very well for