by Carol Padden

About Carol Padden

Carol Padden is Professor of Communication at the University of California, San Diego. With Tom Humphries, she is the coauthor of two books on culture and community of deaf people in the United States and two American Sign Language textbooks, A Basic Course in ASL and Learning ASL. Her work has been supported by the U.S. Department of Education, the Spencer Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health. In 2010, she received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in recognition of creativity and innovation in her research.


The word “communication” first appeared in 1422, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, and was used to refer to “interpersonal contact, social interaction, association.” By the sixteenth century, the word had acquired another sense: “the transmission or exchange of information, knowledge or ideas.” The plural form, “communications,” was introduced in 1907, to refer to transmission by way of machine or technology. Even in this technological sense, however, the notion of communication implies a transmission of information from one biological entity to a similar one. In recent years, technologies and techniques of communication associated with disability are transforming all of these meanings by extending the notion of transmission of information well beyond the circuit of biologically similar speaking bodies. Disability studies and sign language studies have concerned themselves with what have been considered “nontypical” communications, conducted by differently abled bodies, via different appropriations of technology.