When I was in second grade, one of my best friends was a boy of the Jeff C. He was a quiet, artful and gentle spirit, more-so than the other boys in our class at least. He was also the first to introduce me to the life of the deaf, Deaf and hard of hearing.
Both of his parents were deaf, as were several of his siblings. Jeff was often required to serve as a translator between the hearing and deaf worlds as he was able to bridge the two worlds. I loved how he moved his hands, his graceful gestures and the dancing of the visual language. Sadly his family moved at the end of the year, so that his deaf siblings could be closer to schools that better provided for their needs – but I never ever forgot him.
While on my way-ward journey to acquiring the credits and classes I needed to apply to various Physician’s Assistant programs, there was one semester in which I needed 5 credits in order to be ‘full time’ and receive the benefits associated with that status. Looking through the university’s catalog I found a first level sign language class that fit perfectly into my chaotic schedule.
For 16 weeks, 5 days a week, I was part of a class of folks who came together each day to learn how to talk with our hands, not our voices. It was one of the easiest and hardest things I’ve ever had the opportunity to do, and I loved nearly every minute of it.
It turned out that like French and Spanish, I had a talent for American Sign Language and given my varied interested and educational background, relaxed personality and skill set I was offered a position working for the university to provide deaf and hard of hearing students with captioning services. I attend lectures with the student I’m paired with, and caption or type the words and material that the Professor presents during lecture. This service allows students with hearing challenges to read what their classmates hear verbally in class and it allows them to have a ‘transcript’ of the lecture material that can be later referenced.
At first the job was overwhelming, but after several months, I fell into a rhythm, and became more comfortable with my own shortcomings in signing. As with any other language, becoming comfortable with my rudimentary fluency in ASL allowed me to accept help from more knowledgeable ‘speakers’ and provided me with the opportunity to practice as needed.
Over the last year or so, I’ve come to befriend and rely on the people that I work with, and as the semesters come and go, we become closer as friends as well as colleagues. I pray that I never insult or offend those I know and have met with hearing difficulties through my own ignorance. I admire and respect the folks I’ve had the fortune to work with and I hope that I have the opportunity to see them succeed in life.
Several friends have shared their experiences as well as other resources that have helped me to become aware of the simple and so offensive things that the hearing ask, say and do. I know that not everyone has this opportunity, so I wanted to share a few here, so that you yourself can learn of another culture and become more aware in general. I am by no means a ‘spokesperson’ for this beautiful culture, but if the information I share can spare one hard of hearing or deaf person from being talked to in a shouting, drawn out manner then it’s been a good day.
I’ve found that most often times, it’s not the people I’ve met who are physically unable to hear who are hard of hearing, it’s those in the hearing world who have the ability to listen but who CHOOSE not to hear, thus the title of this post.
These blogs are created and maintained by individuals who live with hearing issues as a part of their everyday lives.
If you are interested in the deaf culture, or learning American Sign Language, I encourage you to sign up for a class with your university or community college. You’ll be amazed at how much you will learn, the experiences that you will have and the awesome people you will meet.
While this site is no substitution for an actual class, where you have the opportunity to learn the nuances and grace of the deaf language and culture it is a great resource for refreshing learned signs, and simple words.
Use the dictionary with care, as placement of hands can mean very different things. One example is the sign for umbrella. Incorrectly placed, this gesture is the sign for masturbation. And what one assumes to be the sign for unicorn, is in fact NOT. No, in fact that gesture has a far different meaning. But, that is for you to find out…