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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Dawn Sign Press: The Pain of Starting

"I wouldn't do it again...  it's so hard"


San Diego: This story could make you cry. Joe Dannis had the idea that there was something terribly wrong with deaf education and he believed he could fix the problem. With a gift of $1,000 from his father and a day job, Joe worked on his product alone for nine years.

Now, what are the most commonly used languages in the USA? Answer: English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, French, German, then ASL. Yes, ASL. American Sign Language.

No less than 500,000 and as many as 2.5 million people use ASL every day. In this episode of the show language is subtlety transformed into hand, finger, body and facial combinations.

Take away any one of the senses and deep-seated creative power within the human mind is enlivened and focused interiority awakens. With today's micro-technologies, the deaf and blind are teaching us all about subtleties within language and our skills to communicate it. Here we meet extraordinary people in the midst of a revolution.

Joe Dannis is an advocate for American Sign Language. The Small Business Person of the Year from the State of California, Joe Dannis started DawnSignPress in 1979. He has always been out on the edge... being the first to advocate something new. Joe and his team publish materials to teach sign language for the deaf. Although he publishes videos and books for both children and adults, his biggest customers are schools and universities that offer courses in American Sign Language (ASL).

Learn from someone who has been over the hot coals and whose wisdom runs deep.


Find The Right Partner

1:44 | Play Now

Joe's partner, Ben Bahan, is a professor at Gallaudet University.  He is the perfect partner for Joe since Ben is a member of the faculty of the most important  American institution for the deaf.  This is Ben in a Dawn Sign training film.


2:29 | Play Now

Signing Naturally is the breakthrough product Joe Dannis developed.

Hire The Best People

3:28 | Play Now

The team at Dawn Sign Press is a mixture of deaf and hearing people who all love American Sign Language.  They taught us that ASL is not about signing every word.

Borrow To Grow

2:25 | Play Now

Joe Dannis started a business and grew it with retained earnings until he was fully established.  With hundreds of customers and a hit product, it was easy for him to get a banker to finance the purchase of his own building.

Be The Customer

2:44 | Play Now

Joe Dannis is a success because he is part of the community he is serving. He is an inside trader. He knows so much about his customers that he is able to compete with the huge publishers.

Fill A Need

1:41 | Play Now

You've heard, "find a need and fill it" many times. We say, "find a pain that people will pay money to relieve." This is the only way any business makes money.  Joe Dannis is deaf himself and didn't like the way he was taught to communicate so he changed the world.  He is our hero.

Don't Look Back

2:19 | Play Now

Optimists don't look back. Joe Dannis could be sad about his past struggles to invent a product that helps so many people.  However, he chooses to focus on his success and the next catalog and the next great product. There's no time to fret.