SignWriting Encyclopedia Projects
About the Team
Valerie Sutton
Valerie Sutton
Steve Slevinski
Steve Slevinski
Adam FrostAdam Frost
Valerie Sutton
Valerie Sutton
Hello! My name is Valerie Sutton and I am the inventor of the SignWriting Script, also called the International SignWriting Alphabet. I am honored to work with Steve Slevinski, the developer of the SignPuddle Software and the SignWriting MediaWiki Plugin, and with Deaf ASL linguist, writer, editor and teacher, Adam Frost. As a trio, we are working to bring this test ASL Wikipedia into reality, and it is so much fun, as well as being such important work!

Imagine...there has never been an encyclopedia written in American Sign Language or any sign language before! Now the SignWriting Script and the SignWriting MediaWiki Plugin make it possible to write sign languages on the web. We are entering the new world of writing encyclopedias in written sign languages. Adam Frost, the first ASL Editor, knows his native language American Sign Language (ASL) very well, and is a skilled signwriter. Adam is translating articles in the English Wikipedia, into written ASL, in the new ASL Wikipedia, creating a bilingual environment. And it will be soooo cool when other ASL writers start writing their own articles - Adam is here to help if there is anyone interested ;-)

So how did the SignWriting Script begin?

I first invented SignWriting while I lived in Denmark in 1974. It is one of five sections of Sutton Movement Writing, a system I developed for reading and writing body movement. I grew up in professional ballet training in Southern California, and first invented DanceWriting, preserving the historic Bournonville Schools, a ballet system used by the Royal Danish Ballet. In 1974, while I was teaching the Royal Danish Ballet to read and write dance, a researcher at the University of Copenhagen, Lars von der Lieth, asked me to develop a way to read and write the movements of signed languages for a research project. I became captivated with the beauty of Danish Sign Language, and decided that reading and writing sign languages was an important tool. I chose to dedicate my life to the development of the SignWriting Script, for writing any sign language in the world.

I started working full time with SignWriting in 1981, working with Founding Editor Nancy Romero, and a team of Deaf writers, publishing the SignWriter Newspaper from 1981-1984, working with ASL Deaf expert Lucinda O'Grady Batch to coordinate the Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting (the DAC) in 1986-1988, with software developer Richard Gleaves, to assist the development of the SignWriter Computer Program, and with Deaf storytellers and ASL teachers, Darline Clark Gunsauls, Kevin Clark, David Gunsauls and other members of the Deaf Community, to develop and write a body of SignWriting Literature for the SignWriting Literacy Project.

In 2004 I met software developer Steve Slevinski and Deaf writer and linguist Adam Frost, and we have been working together ever since...

Perhaps you will enjoy joining the SignWriting List, which has been active since 1998. We also have several web sites, such as the SignWriting Web Site,, and SignPuddle Online, A list of links are below...

- Feel free to write to me any time - We need your help to make this a great ASL Wikipedia!

Valerie Sutton

Steve Slevinski
Steve Slevinski

Specializing in mathematics, I have been working with Valerie Sutton since 2004. Together we worked out a conceptual model for how SignWriting could be encoded for computer use. Valerie Sutton, as the domain expert, laid out the requirements while I reflected back a design based on characters and algorithms. Together we hammered out the specifications for the Modern SignWriting encoding model.

About Stephen E Slevinski Jr

Stephen E. Slevinski is the developer of the open standards for SignWriting Software since 2004 to present, working together with SignWriting inventor Valerie Sutton to create software used by signwriters around the world in all the world's sign languages.

Slevinski's software includes:
Binary SignWriting (BSW)
IMWA Convert Package to ISWA
SignMaker Add signs to SignWriting dictionaries
SignPuddle Online, Read & Write Documents & Dictionaries
SignPuddle PersonalPuddle, SignPuddle Desktop Server
SignPuddle PocketPuddle, SignPuddle Server on a USB Stick
SignPuddle Servers for Networks
SignText for creating SignWriting documents
SignWriting Image Server (SWIS)
SignWriting MediaWiki Plugin (SWMP) for Wikipedias in SignWriting
Modern SignWriting Encoding Specification
ASL Wikipedia Project on Wikimedia Labs

Steve Slevinski is the first in history to program important grammatical elements of the SignWriting script that had never been accomplished before, including writing in vertical columns with lanes, a unique grammar requirement for writing Sign Language Literature properly. In 2009-2012, Slevinski did important work with encoding the International SignWriting Alphabet (ISWA 2008 & 2010), first, with his Binary SignWriting (BSW), and later with his new Modern SignWriting Encoding Specification, which is a model for the structure of character encoding in SignWriting. Modern SignWriting is a "Character Encoding Model".

Steve Slevinski's latest triumph, in August 2012, is the successful launch of his SignWriting MediaWiki Plugin, used to post the first test ASL Wikipedia on a Wikimedia Labs server, the forerunner to a future ASL Wikipedia. Without Steve's software, a Wikipedia written in the facial expressions, hand symbols and movement arrows of the SignWriting script would not be possible. The SW MediaWiki Plugin gives this unusual, visual writing system an environment that makes writing and posting articles possible on the web.

History Before 2004
Steve Slevinski graduated from Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania in 1994, with a BS degree in Mathematics, thereafter working for the New York State Education Department in 1994 and 1995 as a Senior Computer Programmer / Analyst.

In 1996 Slevinski started with Danet Inc; a Telecommunications Integrator and a US subsidiary of Danet GmbH out of Germany. From 1996 till 1998, he worked in the Technical Services business unit in a Windows, Unix, and Oracle environment. Steve performed manual and automated testing including module testing, integration testing, system testing, and acceptance testing, working closely with customers and programmers to help debug problems encountered in production environments. Steve created custom applications to aid in his role in the technical services business unit.

1999-2002, Steve was promoted to a systems engineer working on the internal systems. He was responsible for improving the overall quality of the project administration and management information systems, working closely with managers, project managers, accounting, human resources, sales, and executives to enhance and integrate the diverse information technology used within the company.

In 2003, Steve discovered SignWriting on the internet and attempted to start a non-profit organization called Pittsburgh United for Deaf Literacy (PUDL). Steve developed his own PUDL software for SignWriting, feeling strongly that literacy is important for everyone and that SignWriting is the key to literacy for Sign Language users.

In 2004, Valerie Sutton learned about Slevinski's PUDL software for SignWriting, which later became known as "SignPuddle" Software, and invited him to work as a consultant for the Center for Sutton Movement Writing. That was the beginning of the Sutton-Slevinski collaboration. Steve Slevinski and Valerie Sutton work together daily, providing tech support to SignWriting software users, and expanding current software.

History 2008-2009
In 2008, Steve started pushing for more stable and open standards. Val and Steve worked closely to finalize the ISWA 2008, subsequently released under the Open Font License. The SignWriting Image Server beta was released under the GPL. The foundational ideas of Binary SignWriting were being developed.

History 2010-2012
Steve replaced his work on Binary SignWriting with his his new Modern SignWriting Encoding Specification, which is a model for the structure of character encoding in SignWriting. Modern SignWriting is a "Character Encoding Model". This lead to the successful launch of his SignWriting MediaWiki Plugin, used to post the first test ASL Wikipedia on a Wikimedia Labs server, the forerunner to a future ASL Wikipedia.


Adam Frost
SW Encyclopedia Project

I am a Deaf native ASL SignWriter. I am happy to be contributing articles to the new ASL Wikipedia Project. I am also here to help anyone who is interested in writing articles in ASL. I can help writers with ASL translation, the SignWriting script or software questions.

For most of my articles, I am referring to the English Wikipedia for content, translating the English articles into written ASL and posting the translation in the ASL Wikipedia. This provides readers a choice of reading articles in ASL or English.

About Adam Frost

Adam Frost was born deaf in 1982 to a Deaf family in Utah, and grew up north of Los Angeles, California. From an early age, Adam felt the need for a written form for his language, American Sign Language (ASL). Before 2003, Adam knew nothing of SignWriting, which was developed by Valerie Sutton in Denmark in 1974. Ironically, Valerie taught SignWriting at Los Angeles Pierce College in 1982, the year Adam was born. Later Adam attended Los Angeles Pierce College, receiving his Associates Degree in ASL/Interpreting in 2006.

In 2003, while on the internet, Adam happened to come across SignWriting. He was instantly attracted to it. He joined the SignWriting List and asked questions on how to write signs, and wrote a school paper interviewing people about SignWriting at LA Pierce College. Adam became a skilled signwriter, and soon was answering other List member’s questions. In 2004, Adam began working with Valerie Sutton as a member of the Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting (the DAC), dedicating long hours of work to a series of SignWriting projects.

Adam had a vision of an ASL dictionary written completely in ASL. His first project with the DAC was to write sign-definitions in ASL. Some of these definitions are available in the ASL Dictionary in SignPuddle Online. For example, here is the sign for ONE with ASL definitions:

ASl Dictionary Definitions


In 2008, Adam wrote and signed his own ASL video called “Why SignWriting?” which he transcribed into SignWriting. It has helped newcomers to SignWriting understand the purpose and value of writing sign languages.

Why SignWriting? by Adam Frost

Adam dreamed of a day when web sites are written in ASL. That day came in 2009, when Adam developed and posted his blog...the first one in written ASL:

Frost Village
Adam Frost’s Blog in Written ASL

Adam spent over four years, from 2008 to 2011, photographing his own hands creating the photos for the book, "SignWriting Hand Symbols" which he co-authored with Valerie Sutton. The same photos were used for his animated GFs that teach SignWriting on the web.

In 2012, Adam became the first Deaf ASL Editor of the ASL Wikipedia Project on Wikimedia Labs.

Adam Frost
Papers, Publications & Degrees

July 21, 2008
VAIL Conference, San Diego, California
“SignWriting: Sign Languages Are Written Languages”
Paper By Valerie Sutton & Adam Frost

September 8-11, 2009
Conference on Sign Languages Around the World, Lisbon, Portugal
SignWriting Presentation and Workshop
Presented by Adam Frost
Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, Instituto de Ceincias da Saude

September 12, 2009
Societas Linguistica Europea 2009 (SLE 2009) Conference, Portugal
“Writing Sign Languages”
Paper by Adam Frost & Valerie Sutton
Universidade de Lisboa, Special Workshop “Listening to Silent Languages”.

September 15, 2009
“SignWriting Teacher’s Report from Lisbon Portugal”
by Adam Frost

May 21, 2011
Sign Language Corpus Workshop, Gallaudet University
“Sign Language Corpus Using SignWriting”
Paper by Adam Frost

August 28, 2011
SignWriting Reference Manual
Part Two: SignWriting Hand Symbols
by Valerie Sutton & Adam Frost
ISBN 978-0-914336-86-0, 300 pages


Associate Degree in ASL/Interpreting
Los Angeles Pierce College, Woodland Hills

Bachelor’s Degree in Deaf Studies
California State University Northridge (CSUN)

Master’s Degree in Linguistics
Gallaudet University, Washington DC


Contact: Director Valerie Sutton
Center for Sutton Movement Writing
Deaf Action Committee For SignWriting
P.O. Box 517, La Jolla, CA. 92038 USA


About SignWriting

Encyclopedia Projects

ASL Wikipedia Project

on Wikimedia Labs

ASL Wikipedia

MediaWiki Plugin

SignWriting MediaWiki Plugin

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