Sheri's Story

Close up picture of Sheri Youens-Un

The Artist & CEO

My brothers and I were raised by a single dad. As long as I can remember, I have always been deaf. Being the only deaf in the family or being the only girl in the family is not difficult. However, not being able to sign with the family is challenging.

When I was 9, my life became painfully difficult when my father decided not only to quit signing, he banned signing at home and enrolled me in a local oral school. For the next 3 years, I would constantly get punished and bullied for signing.

When I began a new school where everyone signed, I felt incredibly relieved. I was able to understand everything said in the classroom and I could ask questions. Before long, I became a star in my class.

Then I attended Texas School for the Deaf where I truly thrived and graduated with honors. I earned my Bachelors from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and my masters from Lamar University in Texas.

Unfortunately, my father passed away shortly after I started college. He died thinking he was doing me a great service by forcing me to speak rather than to sign.

He also died a stranger.

My father was a good man. He hugged me when I cried. He never raised his hand with me. He smiled when he saw me. However, even to this day, I do not know his favorite color, his favorite food, his stories, his thoughts or his history. I know more about my friends' signing parents than I did with my father.

Over the years, I worked as a language teacher and eLearning consultant and I worked with different people in different places. It was always the same. Deaf children who could sign with their parents often outperform their peers with non-signing parents academically. Yet, like my father, so many parents think they are doing their children favor by not signing with them and they are failing their children. 

In 2015, I left my job and launched a business to focus on developing sign language resources to encourage more families to sign with their deaf children as a way to honor my father.

My business offers authentic and personalized sign language art, Deaf culture art, wood cut pictures and more.

Alphabet Handshapes

Many people are confused by our handshapes, remarking how they differ from many other handshapes. We create handshapes based on how we realistically sign, not how it should look artfully. We believe in language authenticity.

Our J and Z handshapes look different. We do not show J and Z based on how they were written, but how they were signed using viewer's perspective, not from the signer's perspective. 

Viewer's Perspective vs. Signer's Perspective

Our H, G, K, P, Q handshapes appear to show in different direction from other handshapes. They are exactly how we sign them. We do not normally move our hands in other direction to make sure our handshapes are clear and yet, we often see them doing that in art almost everywhere.

"Your O handshape is not showing hallow space." Right, exactly. When we sign O, we do not turn our hand to other direction so make O clear. Why is that acceptable for us to do that in art? 

Why Every Parent Should Learn to Sign

We hear all the times that babies can learn to sign before they can speak. Or how learning two languages can boost a children's brain power.

Yet, we have doctors, pathologists, audiologists, educators, and other specialists who ill-advise parents of deaf children to abandon sign language or they will contempt their children to lifetime isolation. Who should you listen to; Deaf people with experience or these specialists with degrees?

New Science Discoveries

More than 10 years ago, Gallaudet University established Brain and Language Laboratory for Neuroimaging (BL2) led by a renowned cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Laura-ann Petitto. With an advanced brain imaging system; functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS), they were able to study signers in action. Their findings showed that Deaf children benefit from learning ASL at a young children and how bilingualism can truly boost their cognitive power and learning ASL actually improves Deaf children's speech and more. Even Deaf children with Cochlear Implants benefits from using ASL at young age.

In other words, recent science confirm what we Deaf people always knew. Signing with your deaf children at young age certainly can help your children thrive and they can master both languages; English and American Sign Language.

Language Deprivation

Our chief concern we have in our Deaf Community is language deprivation.

"Language deprivation in deaf and hard of hearing children occurs when children do not receive accessible language exposure during the critical period
of language development" Wikipedia

Unfortunately, we know of many Deaf people who missed out on language opportunity at young age and as adults, they struggle with language limitation. Language deprivation can have negative toll on their mental lives as they often struggle to find employments, deal with mental health challenges, and many other frustrations. 

Your deaf child deserves so much more than that. Young deaf children deserve a chance to accessible language. Melissa Malzkuhn said it best, "to sign is human." Sign language is indeed a human right for our Deaf children. 


We believe in capturing beauty of authentic sign Language, American Sign Language and the Deaf experience through wood art. Deafroot is deaf-owned and deaf-employed business.