Advancing early language acquisition for deaf children through quality educational programming in American Sign Language
Welcome to ASL Friends! We are a non-profit organization dedicated to making Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood accessible through American Sign Language (ASL).
While Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is closed captioned, the audience of 3-5 year-olds is often unable to read the captioning. By adding native, Deaf signers to the Neighborhood we have created an effective language model for young deaf children that addresses the issue of language deprivation in the home and subsequent unnecessarily low levels of literacy.
Lack of early exposure to natural sign language for deaf children leads to difficulties in acquisition the dominant spoken language in the community, such by age 18, deaf students generally do not have the linguistic competence of 10-year-old hearing children (Wilbur 2000).
Our mission to advance early language acquisition for deaf children through quality educational programming in American Sign Language.
Although the idea of adding American Sign Language (ASL) to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood has been on the drawing board since 1992, it became formalized on October 3, 2005, when ASL Friends, Inc. (formerly ASL Readers, Inc.) incorporated. On November 3, 2006, our organization received tax-exempt 501(c)3 status from the Internal Revenue Service for the purpose of adapting spoken and written English educational materials into ASL creating accessibility for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.
In 2008, Family Communications, Inc. (founded by Fred Rogers) granted permission for an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to be utilized for research purposes. Deaf-award winning director/producer James DeBee of DeBee Communications, Inc. produced the pilot Mister Rogers’ ASL Friends “Love” DVD made possible by a grant from The Scaife Family Foundation. ASL Friends collaborated with Brenda Schick, Ph.D. of the University of Colorado to conduct a National Parent Survey in 2009, indicating the need for future productions. Today, a segment of the Mister Rogers’ ASL Friends “Love” DVD has over 32,000 views on YouTube.
Board of Directors
Kim’s love and respect for American Sign Language developed through her 30 years of friendship with deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. She earned her Master’s Degree in Deaf Education at the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to that she studied interpreter training at the University of Arizona and Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona. She had the privilege of teaching in deaf residential schools, plus mainstream and oral classrooms. As an interpreter she gained experience in educational, business, medical, and religious settings. Her most cherished memory as an interpreter occurred at The Rehabilitation Institute in Pittsburgh in 1991. To her surprise, the Keynote Speaker she would be interpreting for was her childhood role model, Fred Rogers.
Together with her husband Paul, they shared the joy of raising three sons.
Susan IiIorio Miller
Founding Board Member & Vice-President
As a founding board member of ASL Friends, Sue has helped to steer the organization from its infancy and continues to support multiple needs as they arrive. With her experience in production, she has taken the lead to oversee the production projects of ASL Friends.
Susan graduated from Rosemont College with her degree in Social Science and a concentration in Psychology. She currently works at the Brain Health Center and is a champion on the Paddle Court.
Together with her husband Tom, they have two sons.
Laura is a dynamic executive, adept to working in an entrepreneurial environment within financial services, and has served as Treasurer on the ASL Friends Board of Directors for the past five years and has currently assumed the role of Secretary.
Laura supports financial inclusion initiatives as VP of Prepaid Business Development with Mastercard, bringing with her over 25 years of experience within the payments industry. Prior to MasterCard, Laura was a member of the original national sales team for the then start-up venture Discover Card.
Laura earned her BS degree in Management Science and Marketing from the State University of New York at Geneseo. She and her husband live in Wexford, PA. Laura enjoys traveling to spend time with their three grown sons, theater, reading, music, and photography; she is an active member of Orchard Hill Church and a community volunteer.
Christi has over 17 years of experience in the oilfield. Her prior experience also includes high tech and public accounting and two overseas assignments. She currently serves on the Offshore Technology Conference Program Committee as Vice-Chair of the Networking Committee.
Christi lives in Houston, Texas but is proud of her Pittsburgh roots as an Indiana University of PA undergrad with a BS in Accounting. She also earned her MBA at the University of Houston and is a CPA in the State of Texas. She is an active volunteer at Ronald McDonald House in Houston and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Media & Awards
Nonprofit group welcoming deaf children into 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood'
Pine Cree Journal, 2008
The Pine resident established ASL Readers Inc., a nonprofit group that is working to bring American Sign Language to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
Pilot Project Introduces Sign Language to Mister Rogers Neighborhood
Even though Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, like all PBS programming, offers closed captioning, most preschool children cannot yet read the captions that scroll across the bottom of the screen.
PRHS Students Develop Website Designs for ASL Readers, Inc.
Pine-Richland School District 2011
Pine-Richland High School students take their classroom lessons into the real world. Students in Teacher Valerie Orwig’s fourth-period web page design class helped design the American Sign Language (ASL) Readers, Inc. first web page.
ASL Friends, Inc receives 2017 Best of Pittsburgh Award
Pittsburgh Award Program
ASL Friends Inc has been selected for the 2017 Best of Pittsburgh Ward in the Community Organizations category by the Pittsburgh Award Program.
Each year, the Pittsburgh Award Program identifies companies…
Give to ASL Friends!
Thank you for joining our efforts to make Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood accessible through American Sign Language.
Any funds solicited for ASL Friends, Inc. are not being solicited by, or on behalf of, Fred Rogers Productions.