Deaf Culture #8

How do you reference a person who is not in the same room while you are signing? (Point to a specific location in front of you)?

If the person that you are referring to is not in the room, you can point to a specific location in front of you.  By doing so you “set them up” or assign them that spot.  This makes it easy to continue to refer to the person by simply pointing to the place where you set them up.  Wherever you put them is where they will stay until you change topics in the conversation, or you assign them somewhere else.  You can also set up more than one person at a time.  A cautionary word, the more people you set up, the harder it is to remember who was where!

All deaf people sign ASL?

All of those who live in America do not speak English, those who have lost a limb do not always have a prosthetic, and all deaf people do not use ASL.  Each person adapts to their environment differently, which is what makes us all unique individuals.  The decision to use ASL or any other form of communication is partially that of those who raised or are raising the deaf individual, as well as the individual’s personal preference.  Some may begin their lives lip reading, or communicating by writing, and then eventually decide that they would prefer to learn ASL.  The opposite is also true.  Some people may never master the art of ASL and find it easier to follow different avenues of communication.  There are also many different styles of ASL, as well as different skill levels.  So it is important to remember that just because someone is deaf, does not mean that they can sign.

Most deaf people attend a residential program?

Much to the Deaf Community’s dismay, this is not true.  The residential programs are by far the preferred method of learning in the Deaf Community, but due to tuition constraints, location, and parental preference, attending a residential school is often impossible.  Most students attend what is referred to as a “mainstream” program.  This usually consists of the student being enrolled in a special education program, (hopefully) supplied with an interpreter, and given other accommodations to aid in their education.  In areas with a larger Deaf population, the school may have an HI (Hearing Impaired) classroom.  This functions as a place for students to get extra classroom help, improve their signing skills, learn about the tips and tools that they may need to function in a hearing world (such as how to care for their hearing aids, or how to use an FM system), and to socialize with other deaf students.

Deaf schools tend to be the cultural hub of the Deaf Community?

Schools, in general, are a cultural hub, however Deaf schools are even more so.  While hearing children are exposed to different cultural norms throughout their everyday lives, many deaf children are surrounded by hearing people and know few, if any, other deaf.  This makes the attending a residential school even more important.  Not only are these children getting a quality education in their first language, they are learning to socialize with others, learning independence and self-advocacy, “how” to be deaf, and also have access to positive adult Deaf role models.  Like any school, many lasting friendships are formed as a young adult, and even more so at a residential school where you actually live with your classmates.  Although there may be some downfalls, attending a residential school has a huge positive impact on the rest of a deaf child’s life.

Cochlear Implants are not acceptable in the Deaf Community?

As discussed in the Deaf Culture Quiz #4, Cochlear Implants are not widely accepted among the Deaf community.  It is worth reiterating, however, that the person with the Cochlear Implant is not looked upon negatively, or treated as an outcast.  Instead, it is the idea of the implant in general, and the parent’s tendency to force their children to get the implant.  Aside from being an unaccepted practice, the surgery is extensive and painful, and it is documented that most people who receive an implant are plagued with headaches that do not ease until the implant is turned off.  It is also worth noting that this is a touchy subject within the community.  Much like discussing politics or religion, it is usually unwise to enter in to a discussion with a Deaf person about Cochlear Implants until you know that person quite well.

Deaf Culture #6

90% of all deaf children are born to hearing parents?

Surprisingly, this is true.  The other 10% are called DOD, or Deaf of Deaf, meaning that they are the Deaf children of Deaf adults.  DOD tends to be a title that is somewhat coveted in the Deaf community.  It is a source of pride that they are able to carry on the “legacy”.  DOD, both children and adults, have been known to be more confident, prone to becoming leaders, and have a better linguistic command of both ASL and English than their DOH (Deaf of Hearing) counterparts.  This may be due to their immediate inclusion in the Deaf community, and the encouragement to learn ASL and to take pride in their Deaf title.  DOH children are often sent to oral schools, given Cochlear Implants, and encouraged to speak rather than sign, in hopes that they will fit in with the Hearing community.  There are exceptions of course, Hearing parents that encourage ASL and other aspects of Deaf inclusion, but by and large Hearing parents tend to try to assimilate their children to the Hearing culture.

75% of all parents with deaf children do not know sign language?

Sadly, this is also true.  This is a baffling statistic, as it means that 75% of all parents with deaf children have an extremely limited ability to communicate with their children.  The reason behind parents not learning ASL is unknown.

10% of Americans know ASL?

This is false.  In truth, the current number is unknown.  The census that is generally referenced when speaking of ASL users was completed in 1970 and included everyone who signs, whether or not they are fluent in ASL.  It is known that the use of ASL is on the rise, so there is hope a new census will be completed in the near future. The results of that census would prove to be both interesting and encouraging for people who wish to learn.

60% of the English language is visible on the lips?

Though many who rely on speech reading wish this were true, unfortunately it is false.  As discussed in Deaf Culture #3, only about 20% of words are visible on the lips, and even that number is contingent on specific elements.  Words may be difficult to read for many reasons.  Anything in or around the mouth will distort the message.  This could be a beard or mustache, chewing gum, or even braces.  There can also be problems if the speaker has a speech impediment, is a fast talker, or tends to mumble.  Also, if the speaker is aware that someone is trying to read their lips, they may attempt to help, which usually ends up being a hindrance.  By attempting to speak more slowly and clearly, they will distort the natural cadence of the words, making it more difficult to understand.

It is acceptable to bounce your letters while fingerspelling?

Imagine trying to read a book while driving down a bumpy dirt road…that is the equivalent of bouncing your letters while fingerspelling.  Mastering the fine art of fingerspelling requires infinite amounts of both practice and patience and it would be a shame to blur all of your hard work by bouncing your hand!  Often, the bouncing of letters while fingerspelling is the result of fierce concentration and the wish to form the letters correctly.  Thankfully, the cure for a bouncing hand is simply practice and confidence!