Where do we go from here?

There are many reasons that a person could decide to learn ASL, but one of the greatest benefits is being able to interact with the Deaf community.  Naturally I can only speak from experience with my regional Deaf community, but it seems that there are some traits that are universal.  Besides finding a group of open, happy, and welcoming people, you will probably find that many Deaf people love to help others learn their language.  If you are eager to learn, you will probably find people willing to teach.

The “search” for the Deaf Community may seem daunting at first.  However, there are many ways that you can come in contact.  One option is to see if there is a local Deaf Club.  What is that, you ask?  Good question.  A Deaf Club is simply a (generally) small group of people that represent the local community and are in charge of organizing outings, parties, even fundraisers.  Think of it as a local Moose Lodge.  You can search for a club near you simply by searching the Internet for “Deaf Club in [city]”.

While you are browsing the Internet, you can search for a local Sign Language Interpreter Agency.  The people at the agency may be able to point you in the right direction, or even help set up a meeting with a willing Deaf person.

Although interactions can seem intimidating at first, like many situations, the more often you are exposed, the more confident you will become.

You can also see if your local Community College has an Interpreter Training Program, or even some classes.  Many times, this could lead to events that have been set up specifically for meeting people within the Deaf Community.

The most important thing that you can do, is to become active in to your own community.  The more you are present, the better chance you have of running in to someone who will sign with you.  Plus, volunteering is great for any community!!

Secrets, Secrets, Everywhere!!

Have you ever been in a situation where it felt like everyone knew something that you didn’t?  It was pretty uncomfortable, wasn’t it?  This is the world that Deaf people have to traverse every day.  They are surrounded by people having conversations, sharing information, telling jokes, and they are not included.  This can be an extremely lonely existence.  Have no fear, you can be of assistance!

In the world of ASL, you will often hear the words “Sim Com”.  This means “Simultaneous Communication” and refers to signing and speaking at the same time.  It is some what of an art form and takes some practice, but it is something that will mean inclusion for the Deaf that you socialize with.  By signing what those around you are saying, and using “Sim Com” when you are speaking, the Deaf can be included in the conversation, understand jokes, and generally be a part of the crowd.

This has the added benefit of showing your friends how cool ASL is.  When they ask you how they can learn, you can confidently say “just go to ASLDeafined.com!”

Help! I see Deaf People!

Help!  I see Deaf People!

So now that you have some knowledge of ASL and Deaf Culture, you will begin to notice more Deaf people around you.  Yes, they have always been there; you are just now becoming aware of them.  You may be thinking to yourself, “Self….what do I do?!  Do I approach them?  Do I casually wave as I walk by?  Do I run!?”

Relax, Deaf people rank among the nicest, most accepting people I have ever met.  This isn’t to say that ALL Deaf people are wonderful, but as a whole, they are a wonderful group to be around.

So, what DO you do?  My suggestion is to remember that just like you and I, these are people.  They are not superheroes, they are not celebrities, they are people with lives and families.  With that understanding, first observe what they are doing.  Are they arguing with unruly children?  Are they on a date?  Are they in a hurry?  If it is not something that you would want to be interrupted by a stranger while doing, then I would suggest going about your own business.  If they seem as though they are not busy or in a hurry, it would be fine to nicely approach them, introduce yourself, and explain that you are learning ASL.  Yes, it really is that simple

To be or….nope, not to be

One of the most interesting and unique parts of ASL is the fact that the verb “to be” is absent from the language.  This is something that you have already learned, but may not be aware that you know.

For example:

The sentence “I am going to the store” is signed as “STORE I GO”.  “I am” is missing and is only added when we translate the sentence in to English.

This is true for every conjugation of the verb.  “I went to the store” becomes “STORE I GO FINISH”, “We are going to the store” becomes “STORE WE GO”, and so forth

This affects much more than you would originally think.  The statement “This is who I am,” becomes simply a gesture to your self.

“Who are you?” Becomes “WHO YOU?” “That will be fun!” is “FUN FUTURE”.

In order to understand what is being signed, you need to have a clear grasp of the ASL timeline, which, luckily, is the next grammar lesson!

Deaf Culture #15

Deaf people use a videophone more often than seeing each other in person?

This is true.  While the Deaf community is close knit, it is also spread nationwide.  You may meet a friend at a Deaf retreat, a convention, or simply on vacation that you may not see again in person for a decade or more.  Aside from how widespread the Deaf community is, there are often other factors that stop people from meeting face to face.  One of the most common questions is “Can Deaf people drive a car?”  The answer is a resounding YES! Often, Deaf drivers are better drivers than hearing people because they are not distracted by listening to the radio or talking on the phone.  Even so, many Deaf are either unemployed or underemployed.  This can be due to anything from being hindered by additional impairments to local business owners being under educated on what a deaf individual can bring to their business.  Whatever the reason, lack of employment stops many Deaf from having transportation, which means they are stuck at home.  There are a myriad of reasons why a Deaf person may use a V.P. more often than an in person visit, but, like everyone else, most wish that they could see their friends more often!

It is important for deaf children to have deaf role models?

This is true, and extremely important.  Every child needs a role model and the closer that role model is to the advantages and limitations of the child, the more the child will identify with the role model.  Another important reason for a deaf child to have a deaf role model is for language acquisition.  Hearing children are surrounded by examples, both good and bad, of the English language.  Deaf children are not as lucky, and must rely on Deaf adults to provide this important learning experience.  Not only will they learn language, they will also learn how to identify, and many times overcome their limitations.

Most deaf people don’t go out in public because of the difficulty communicating with hearing people?

This is false.  Deaf people have become very accustomed to making themselves understood.  Sometimes with pen and paper, sometimes through gesture, and sometimes through the spoken word depending on the individual.  However they decide to communicate, they are most certainly not staying at home!

Deaf people appreciate those who try and communicate with them in ASL?

Regardless of your skill level, any attempt to communicate in a person’s native language is appreciated.  Members of the Deaf Community are especially patient with newcomers as they realize that there are limited resources for those interested to gain exposure to the language.  That being said, there is always a time and a place to try out your new skill, and times when you should let the opportunity pass.  A doctor’s office waiting room while the Deaf mother struggles with a toddler and a screaming infant is probably not the best time, while a local Deaf social event is a wonderful opportunity.  Use your discretion and remember that as eager as you are to learn, Deaf are people first.

The Deaf Community is very unique?

Like any small niche community, this is true.  Not only is the Deaf Community unique as a whole, but they are unique depending on their region as well.  One community may be very focused on religion, while another on art, and still another on volunteerism.  What is important to remember is that there is something to be learned, and many things to be valued in each and every community, Deaf or otherwise, and it is never a waste of time to acquaint yourself with those around you.

Deaf Culture #14

All deaf people use Hearing Aides?

This is false.  If you have such a profound hearing loss that only the loudest of noises (think close range jumbo jet), a hearing aid would be completely ineffective.  Deaf people can have an extremely wide range of hearing loss, from very little, to profound.  Sometimes the hearing loss is so complicated that a hearing aid would be of no use.  Also, some people prefer not to wear them.  There is a certain amount of stigma related to hearing aids, and many people would prefer to deal with their hearing loss, than to deal with the repercussions of that stigma.  The bottom line is that it is personal preference as much as medical necessity.

Cochlear Implant usage is on the rise in the Deaf Community?

This is, unfortunately, true.  It is unfortunate, not because of the technology itself, but what it means for Deaf Culture.  As technology advances, cochlear implants are becoming better and smaller.  As we know, 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents.  Those parents are more likely to opt for the Cochlear Implant in order to bridge the social, cultural, and physical chasm that exists between their child and themselves.  These two facts have led to an increased number of children being implanted.  Formerly, these children would drift towards the deaf culture as a way of assimilating with others who understood them.  Now, with all of the advances in implantation, these children identify more with the hearing community than the Deaf.  This is leading to a decline in both the number of individuals in the Deaf Community, as well as the number of individuals who have use for ASL.

Cochlear Implants are a miracle fix for someone with a hearing loss?

Here is a little known fact about Cochlear Implants: in most C.I. patients (especially those implanted later in life), use of their implant causes an intense headache.  There is nothing miraculous about having a headache every time you make use of your “cure”.  Many people think that once a person has a cochlear implant, they will hear the same sounds as a person who has no hearing loss.  This is false.  The C.I. allows for “sensations” that are then translated into meaning.  It is like learning to detect sounds with your kneecap and calling that “hearing”.  There is no “miracle fix” for someone with hearing loss, there are simply adjustments that are made.  It is up to the individual whether those adjustments steer them towards the Hearing world, or the Deaf world.

Capital “D” Deaf means that the person attended a residential program, uses American Sign Language, and feels like they are a part of the Deaf Community?

We have discussed previously what the term Deaf means to an individual.  It is an identity, not a label.  It is not uncommon to hear of a person with profound hearing loss, who is extremely active in the Deaf Community, and an advocate for all things Deaf, to be referred to as “Big D Deaf”.  The capital D is the primary indicator of self-acceptance.  The Deaf individual is not looking to change him or herself, and is unwilling to let anyone else change them.

Lower case “d” deaf means that the person most likely attended a mainstream program, may use ASL or some form of it, and also may use amplification devices?

The lower case “d” indicates a medical diagnosis.  The person that identifies with the hearing world, and sees being deaf as a handicap that is to be fixed.  The deaf individual usually wants to be known as something other than deaf, whereas a Deaf individual is, first and foremost, Deaf.

 

 

 

 

Deaf Culture #13

NTID stands for: National Technical Institute for the Deaf?

True! NTID is located in Rochester, New York, and is one of nine colleges within RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology).  Started in 1967, the school’s mission is to give Deaf and Hard of Hearing students a quality education in technological fields.  According to the website, nearly 1,400 of the 1,529 students enrolled are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, and in the last five years an astonishing 91% of graduates that pursue employment have found a job within a year.

Gallaudet University is located in Washington D.C.?

Gallaudet University is, in fact, located in Washington D.C.  We have previously discussed the history and implementation of Gallaudet, but what it is most known for is the “Deaf President Now” movement.  In 1988 the University found itself in need of a new president.  They began interviewing candidates and narrowed it down to two Deaf men, and one hearing woman who did not know sign language.  In a move that I’m not sure anyone, including those involved, understood, they chose the hearing woman as the president of a Deaf university.  This sparked an intense 3 day protest in which the students chanted “Deaf President NOW!” and blocked access to the university, effectively shutting it down.  After 3 days, the administration relented and selected I. King Jordan, a well-educated Deaf man, to be the next president of the University.

DPN (Deaf President Now) is a moment in history where the whole nation was focused on the Deaf, and their needs.  As a result (and rightly so), DPN is a huge point of pride for the Deaf Community.

NTID is located in Rochester, New York?

True! To be more specific, NTID is located at:

52 Lomb Memorial Drive

Rochester, NY 14623

However, if a road trip is not in your future, you can go to http://www.ntid.rit.edu/virtual-tour and take a virtual tour of campus.  While you are there, check out their calendar of awesome campus events and schedule your vacation time accordingly.  It will be the perfect way to practice everything that you have learned at ASLDeafined.com!

 Gallaudet University was founded by Edward Miner Gallaudet?

True!  In 1857, Amos Kendall donated the land for Columbia Institute for the Deaf and Blind, and made known his wish for Edward to become it’s leader.  Mr. Gallaudet jumped at the chance and became the school’s first principal.  Gallaudet, however, had bigger plans for the school.  He wanted to see it become a college.  To do this, he appealed to the higher powers, even going so far as to request a bill be signed in to law, which was an unnecessary move.  He was appeased, however, when the president at the time, a Mr. Abraham Lincoln, signed such a bill, giving the authorization for the Columbia Institute to begin awarding college degrees.  Gallaudet remained active in the college, both as President of the University and then later, President of the Board of Directors, until his retirement in 1911.

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was instrumental in bringing ASL to America?

It may be difficult to understand the motives of Edward Miner Gallaudet without first speaking of his father, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet dreamed of becoming a preacher.  That was until he met nine-year-old Alice, the deaf daughter of his neighbor, Dr. Mason Cogswell.  Alice befriended Thomas, who began trying to teach her the names of objects by writing in the dirt with a stick.  As you can guess, this effort did not reap the desired outcome.  Alive with new purpose, Thomas abandoned his dreams, as well as the master’s degree that he received at the age of 20 from Yale University, and took off for Europe to study methods for teaching deaf students.  After several dead ends, Thomas was introduced to Abbe Siccard who ran the Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets a Paris (The National Deaf-Mute Institute of Paris), who in turn introduced him to Laurent Clerc, and Jean Massieu, two of his deaf faculty members.  Thomas, impressed with the advanced education that the two men had obtained by using the manual method, begged Clerc to return to America with him.  Clerc agreed, and on the three month journey home, taught Thomas Sign Language.  Upon his return to America, Thomas took Clerc around the eastern seaboard, campaigning and collecting money to begin their own school.  They succeeded and built a school that would eventually become known as the American School for the Deaf.  The first class consisted of seven students, including, of course, his young friend Alice.

 

Deaf Culture #12

It is not unusual for deaf people to have difficulty with the English language?

This is true.  The English language is incredibly complex.  We have words that look the same but mean different things, sound the same but are spelled differently, odd rules for pluralizing, and that’s just the beginning!  Add the fact that for most deaf individuals, English is their second language, as well as the linguistic rules of ASL being completely different to those in English, and…well…it’s pretty easy to see why deaf people may have difficulty.  They are not alone either.  Most major publications hire a “copy editor” whose only job is to correct the spelling, grammar, and syntax of the writer’s work.  Many native English speakers, born and raised into the language, and taught how to use it at every stage of their schooling, still struggle to follow all of the complex, and seemingly ever changing, rules.

Deaf people prefer to use the TTY than a videophone?

This is the perfect follow up to the previous question.  It is true that the majority of the deaf community prefer to use a videophone to a TTY because, when using a videophone, they can use their native language of ASL.  Using a TTY requires the user to be able to write, read, and comprehend English.  While this is certainly possible, it would be rare to find anyone, deaf or hearing, that would feel more comfortable conversing in his or her second language.

Another reason that the videophone is preferable is for linguistic nuances and non-verbal cues.  Head nods, eyebrow movement, and eye gaze are a few examples of “non-manual markers” and are extremely important to the meaning behind what is being said, and are how ASL users display prosody, or voice inflection.  If you think about your own English conversations, you will notice that you use the speakers voice inflection to understand if their comment is rude, sincere, sarcastic, or even funny.  These nuances are lost when the conversation is in text, and the speaker’s intent can easily be skewed.  Anyone who has ever opened an email or received a text and thought “What do they mean by that?” has had first hand experience as to the clarity that inflection can add to a message.  Videophones can add back in the meaning that simple text is lacking.

Deaf people use flashing lights to indicate a knock or noise?

They sure do!  Many Deaf homes have lights that will flicker to indicate that someone has pushed the doorbell or that the phone is ringing.  There are also lights installed on the smoke detectors to indicate when there is a fire, and many Deaf have a pillow or pad on their mattresses that will vibrate when their alarm goes off in the morning.  The world that we live in is very much centered around sound which means that accommodations must be made so that the Deaf have equal access to the information that Hearing people receive through their ears.

American Sign Language is becoming more popular under World Languages?

True.  With advances in diversity requirements, more and more members of the Deaf community are gaining access to equality in both the educational and professional worlds.  Because of this, more of the hearing population is becoming familiar with both ASL itself as well as ASL Interpreters.  The extra exposure has created an interest in the language, which in turn, has led to schools adding ASL to their foreign language offerings.  This change in attitude towards ASL is a huge advantage for the Deaf because the more people that know ASL and understand Deaf Culture, the more equal access there will be for the Deaf.

American Sign Language is more popular than Signing Exact English?

This is true for many reasons, and those who use ASL will likely share their opinion with you, loudly and vehemently.

The main difference between ASL and SEE is that ASL is a language, while SEE is not, nor was it ever intended to be.  SEE is a system that was devised to help Deaf children learn English.  The system is cumbersome, requiring nearly twice the number of signs as the same sentence in ASL, as well as adding hand shapes to indicate some words and word endings such as: the, is, -ing, -ed, etc.

Not only does SEE remove the beauty of ASL, it also changes the structure.  SEE, like English, is a linear language.  One thing leads to another, and you must wait until the end to get a clear picture of the concept.  ASL begins with the picture, or the concept as a whole, and adds to it.  Here is and example:

ASL:

“The boy is climbing the tree.”

TREE-BOY, and show him climbing up the tree.

SEE:

(Words in bold are signs or movements that do not exist in ASL)

THE BOY IS CLIMB-ING THE TREE”

As you can see, a lot of the magic is missing.

SEE should not be confused with PSE (Pidgin Signed English).   PSE is ASL in English word order.  While it is not a language, nor is it as beautiful as ASL, it is accepted as a mode of communication in the Deaf Community.

 

Deaf Culture #11

Most deaf children have deaf parents?

False.  Only 10% of deaf children have deaf parents.  The remaining 90% have hearing parents.  These children are more likely to attend a public school with a mainstream program, have an amplification device, and rely on oral skills, or Signed Exact English, as opposed to ASL.

Working with a deaf person requires an interpreter all of the time?

There are many day-to-day activities that do not require an interpreter.  Often the deaf person will communicate with pen and paper in order to ask general questions, order fast food, go to the pharmacist, and other mundane tasks.  Though many Deaf use an interpreter for on the job training, staff meetings, and other important work functions, there are very few who have an interpreter with them at work at all times.

If you do not know sign language, it is acceptable to write back and forth with a deaf person?

True!  This is one of the most acceptable and often used methods of communicating with a deaf person, if you don’t know ASL.  Many members of the Deaf community developed a tendency to carry a pen and notepad with them so that they are readily available when needed.

Deaf people don’t mind working in noisy environments?

You may find it surprising to learn that this is false.  The word “deaf” is an umbrella term that may refer to people of many different degrees of hearing loss.  Some people may be bothered by high tones, others by low tones, and still more by mid-tones.  Even people with complete hearing loss can be sensitive to “environmental noise”, which are the vibrations caused by sound waves.  Working in a noisy environment can be just as distracting for a deaf person as it is to a hearing person.

Deaf people tend to be more sensitive to the light?

This is true.  It is not uncommon for people who experience sensory depravation to have their other senses compensate for the one that is lost.  Deaf people may be more sensitive to light, vibrations, smells, or even tastes.  Light is also an important issue to consider when signing too much, too little, and reflections can make it difficult to see the other person.

 

 

Deaf Culture #10

When talking with a deaf person through an interpreter, always look at the interpreter?

This is false, although it is one of the hardest things for a hearing person to master.  From early childhood we are taught to give our attention to the person who is speaking.  Therefore, it is ingrained in us to look at the interpreter, since they are the ones that are speaking.  In order for the Deaf client to feel like you are listening to them, you need to give them your attention, both when listening and when speaking.  Again, because of the way we in the hearing culture are raised, we tend to direct our questions towards the interpreter.

 

For Example:

“Would you please ask Mrs. Smith if she has ever had an X-ray?

The correct way to address a deaf person through an interpreter is simply to say:

“Mrs. Smith, have you ever had an X-ray?”

Don’t worry, Deaf and Interpreters alike are used to this being awkward at first.  That is one reason that you will often see the interpreter standing behind and a little to the side of the hearing person.  That serves as a gentle reminder that the interpreter is not actually part of the conversation.

Deaf people tend to feel more comfortable socializing with other deaf people?

This is true.  As humans, we tend to congregate to others that are most like ourselves, in large part, due to language barriers.  Even fluent users find it mentally taxing after a while to translate to and from their native language.  Therefore, it stands to reason that if you can surround yourself with others with the same native language, you will be more comfortable.  Another reason that people of like backgrounds tend to gather is because of past experiences.  Deaf like to socialize with other Deaf because they have a lot in common.  They can talk, vent, and laugh, and know that whomever they are speaking to understands completely.  Much like the fact that people outside of your family may not find the quirkiness of Great Aunt Louisa to be quite as funny as you do.

It is easy to become a sign language interpreter?

This is very, very, false.  It takes a lot of skill and a lot of practice to become an interpreter.  A Sign Language Interpreter needs to be fluent, not only in ASL, but also in English.  In order to interpret, a person must be able to listen to the English, understand the meaning in order to convey the concept, rearrange the sentence structure and add the appropriate facial movements and body language in order to follow the linguistic rules of ASL.  And all of this must be accomplished so that the ASL is almost simultaneous to the English so that the Deaf person does not fall behind in the conversation.  They must also be able to do the opposite and change ASL to English in order to convey the thoughts of their Deaf client.  An Interpreter must also have training that allows them to, know and follow the Interpreter’s role and responsibilities under the Code of Conduct, be able to solve ethical dilemmas,  and know the laws not only governing Interpreters, but also those that involve the deaf community in order to advocate on their behalf.

As you can see, being an interpreter is much more complex than it may seem on the surface.

The term “Deaf” is appropriate?

Absolutely.  As has been previously discussed here, the term “Deaf” refers to an entire community of people and evokes feelings of pride and belonging, much like the terms “American”, “Christian”, or for those enlightened few…”U of M fan”.

All deaf people can read lips well?

This is false.  This too has been previously discussed, but cannot be reiterated enough.  Do not assume that all deaf people excel at reading lips.  One phrase that interpreters often hear is, “Oh, he doesn’t need an interpreter, he can read lips.”  True, some deaf are quite skilled at lip reading, however, it is not an effective form of communication.  No one should be forced to guess and stumble their way through the doctor’s explanation of their upcoming heart surgery, a job interview, or any other important discussion.