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Gallaudet University President Roberta J. Cordano believes everyone should learn sign language from birth — and in March 2022, she will have the opportunity to tell everyone exactly why at one of the largest educational conferences in the world: South by Southwest EDU, or SXSW EDU. 

South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual festival hosted in Austin, Texas, features music, film screenings, and comedy showcases as well as exhibitions, presentations and more. SXSW EDU is one of the components of the SXSW “family” of conferences and festivals.

SXSW EDU, per the event website, is a four-day event, from March 7 to 10, 2022. SXSW EDU, as the name implies, will center on education, “offering compelling sessions, in-depth workshops, engaging learning experiences, mentorship, future-focused competitions, an expo, networking opportunities, [and more].”

Last summer, SXSW EDU put out a call for presentation proposals for conference sessions, followed by a public voting period to allow the community to browse proposals and vote for sessions they believed would be a good fit for the SXSW 2022 event. After the community voting period, the SXSW advisory board provided feedback on all proposals, then turned the work over to the veteran SXSW staff, who drew up the schedule and invited speakers. 

Gallaudet University Roberta J. Cordano’s proposal, titled “Why Teach Everyone Sign Language From Birth”, was selected among hundreds of submissions, specifically for the Accessibility and Inclusion portion of the event. Social media calls to vote for Cordano’s proposal included videos showing young children using ASL

Cordano has written articles and has been interviewed on this topic numerous times. During one of the interviews, Cordano stressed the benefits of everyone, deaf and hearing, learning sign language from birth. It will allow not only for clear understanding and communication, but perhaps most importantly, connection. “As humans, we are wired to communicate with each other,” Cordano insists. “[Now], we must take this further and make it a biological, neurological, social, and public health imperative.”

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