T. J. O’Rourke

Publisher and advocate

In 1967, the NAD received a DHEW grant to start a series of pilot sign-language classes—the Communicative Skills Program (CSP). From 1967 to 1978, T.J. served as the CSP’s National Director. He spearheaded the establishment of sign-language programs in schools, colleges, and agencies across the nation, which led to formal recognition of ASL as a foreign language. He wrote the nation’s all-time best-selling sign-language text, A Basic Course in Manual Communication. NAD published the first edition in 1970. Through CSP, T.J. founded the Sign Instructors Guidance Network (SIGN), which later became the independent American Sign Language Teachers Association (ASLTA). He left SP in 1978 to found his own publishing company—T.J. Publishers, specializing in ASL and Deaf Culture multimedia. Together with Tom Humphries and Carol Padden, the popular A Basic Course in American Sign Language (1980). T.J. was also a Deaf Rights advocate and activist and founder of the Caption Club.

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