COVID-19 Update: Penn Summer staff are available online or by phone at (215) 898-7326. More Info & Resources >
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American Sign Language and Deaf Culture Academy

July 11 - July 29, 2022

Applications for 2022 summer programs are now open.

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Courses offered online

Courses offered online

Non-credit program

Non-credit program


Eligibility: Current 9th-11th grade students

International students

International students welcome

Financial Aid

Financial aid for select Philadelphia students

The American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf Culture Academy introduces ASL and an overview of topics integral to experiences of American deaf community members. The academy features ASL instruction in an immersive environment where students learn basic conversation and narrative skills. The course also features a weekly seminar to discuss experiences and perspectives of deaf community members as demonstrated through online publications (vlogs), lectures, and a panel of deaf community professionals in related fields.

ASL instruction is conducted entirely in ASL, with no spoken English. We use written English sparingly to facilitate instruction. We find this the best way to get students using and comfortable with ASL quickly. In fact, students really end up loving and valuing this approach!

Upon completion of the academy, students come away with the following ASL skills:

  • Sharing personal information including hometown, language background(s), and interests or hobbies
  • Discussing and describing locations within a building, giving directions within a building using perspective shift and directional vocabulary, and explaining how one gets from location to location via transportation
  • Expressing wants and needs and the ability to ask and tell where to obtain those wants and needs
  • Asking and telling about marital status, whether they have children or siblings, and the chronological ranking of children and siblings
  • Using number skills, including how to express collective group numbers, age, and time

Students also gain awareness of cultural values and topics important to the deaf community in order to better understand and connect with the deaf community members in future interactions.

If you attend a School District of Philadelphia public or charter high school, you may be eligible to attend a Penn Summer Academy free of charge with a Penn Summer Scholarship.

Get application information »


  • Intensive ASL instruction by a native ASL user
  • Lectures and discussions about current events and important topics in American deaf communities
  • Interactive panel discussion with Philadelphia deaf community professionals

See this program's 2021 syllabus (PDF).

Penn Summer online system requirements

We recommend that all operating systems, browsers, Flash, and other software be up to date before the start of each online class. Most courses use Canvas for assignments, discussion, and watching video, and synchronous sessions can happen in a variety of platforms. Students will receive all important information before the beginning of class.

See more system requirements »


Program Director: Jami Fisher

Program Director: Jami Fisher
Jami Fisher is the American Sign Language Program Director and a senior lecturer in foreign languages in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, a position she has held since 2005. She is a native ASL user and CODA (child of deaf adults), born and raised in Philadelphia. She has a BA in English and education from Colby College, an MSEd in education, culture, and society and an EdD in higher education from University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. Jami’s current academic interests include finding ways to integrate meaningful, collaborative, community-based activities into ASL and deaf studies coursework as well as documenting and analyzing the Philadelphia variety of American Sign Language.