There are some things that are available to help deaf people with everyday life that many hearing people aren’t aware of. The first one that I wanted to bring up is closed captioning at movies. There’s actually a few options for closed captioning. The first one is that there is a device that shows subtitles for whoever is holding it. The other option is that many movie theaters have special showings of movies with subtitles on the screen.
Something else that I wanted to talk about is alarm clocks. Many people may wonder how alarm clocks work for deaf people since it’s not like they can hear the screaming beeps. What my parents have used is a little device that you put under your mattress and instead of beeping, it shakes the entire bed. We also used to have other things like flashing lights for the door bell or phone, and flashing lights for when I’d cry as a baby.
A lot of hearing people that have never encountered a deaf person tend to get very nervous during their first meeting. I’ve had a lot of friends keep me around as a barrier and interpreter, which is fine, but there are chances that you may run into a deaf person and want to talk to them, and I want to give you tips and tricks so that communicating is as easy as it can be.
- Be Expressive- A big part of sign language is facial expressions, so when you don’t know sign language, really use those facial expressions to communicate. If you’ve ever seen me talk, you already know that I have a very expressive face and it’s one of the easiest ways to get something across.
- Speak Clearly and Confidently- I can’t say this for all deaf people, but most of the deaf people I have encountered in my life rely heavily on lip reading. It’s natural to them and when you mumble or cover your mouth, they may not know what you said. Also, with the confidence part of this, make eye contact, and make sure to have a true face-to-face conversation.
- Take Your Time- Try not to speak too quickly, and feel free to ask someone to slow down as well. Don’t worry if they ask you to repeat something more than once and don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat something. Be patient and communication will become easier.
- Be Resourceful- If you aren’t feeling confident about speaking to someone, use things around you. A pencil and paper goes a long way and I know many deaf people who carry them around to help with communication.
If you run into a deaf person in public or at your place of work, try to use these tips and things will probably be a lot easier, and you both will be a lot happier that communicating wasn’t an issue.
Interpreters have been a huge part of my life and after years of needing them for my parents, you start to become familiar with certain people. There were a few interpreters that essentially saw me grow up, since they always happened to be my parents interpreter for whatever event we needed them for. We usually would have my school hire an interpreter for things like plays or musicals that I was in.
However, interpreting has actually made its’ way into popular culture now, and it’s a really interesting thing for me to see. I grew up with people saying interpreters were almost too distracting and now, I personally feel like people seek out to watch them as an art form. I think a reason for that is the fact that there are young deaf people in the world and the culture has changed and grown.
An example of that is interpreting with music. I remember growing up and watching interpreters at concerts with my mom, and it was nothing like it is today. ASL wasn’t as popular as it is now and so the sign language was more direct and even though it was beautiful to watch, it wasn’t as passionate as I think it is now.
If you haven’t heard of her, I highly recommend looking up Amber Galloway-Gallego. I personally think that she is one of the main reasons that people are interested in sign language and why it has become such a big part of popular culture. She really is able to show so much emotion when she interprets and I think it’s amazing to watch. I feel like a new video of her interpreting will pop up on my Facebook every week.
It’s also different for me because rap and hip hop is popular now, and watching rap be interpreted is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Mostly because it’s something that requires a lot of body language and emotion and also, I know how hard it is. It’s hard to explain to people why this is so funny for me, but it’s just the most hilarious thing I can watch.
Something I get asked often is how my parents became deaf and if I’m worried that my children could be deaf. Deafness happens in so many ways and I actually think it’s really interesting to hear everyone’s stories because they can be so unique.
With my mom, she had a fever of 106 at 4 months old, and that essentially melted her hearing away. However, doctors didn’t know she was deaf for quite some time. My grandma would take her to the doctor because she was concerned that her daughter wasn’t really reacting to noise. Every time she would go to the doctor, they would call my mom’s name and tap on the bed that she was on, thinking she was reacting to the sound, when really she was reacting to the movement. It took my grandma hiring specialists to finally realize that she was deaf.
My dad was born deaf and there wasn’t really ever an explanation that we knew of. We recently learned that his mom had a fever during her pregnancy and that caused stress on the pregnancy and he lost his hearing from that. The doctors didn’t predict that he would be deaf, but thought he might have learning disabilities.
Because of how my mom became deaf, I don’t have a super high chance of my children becoming deaf, but because of the advances in technology and because of my upbringing, I know that having deaf children won’t be a difficult thing for me to deal with.
There are a few stereotypes about deaf people that I want to address. I do want to say that if you’ve thought any of these, that is totally okay. It’s not a bad thing, but these are just some common misconceptions that I wanted to talk about.
The first and biggest stereotypes is that deaf people can’t talk. While there definitely are deaf people that might not be able to speak and there are people who choose not to learn to speak, like Nyle Dimarco. Most deaf people that I know have grown up in mostly oral households and all speak. Their voices aren’t very easy to understand, but they do speak. My parents did help teach me to speak, even though their speech isn’t perfect.
Another stereotype is that deaf people can’t hear anything at all. There are ways to help a person hear slightly and one of those ways is with hearing aids. My dad doesn’t really use a hearing aid, but he does have very little hearing without it. He can hear some things, but he is mostly deaf. My mom can hear a little more and wears a hearing aid more often. Every deaf person is different and some may not have any hearing at all, and some may still have a little hearing left.
A question that a lot of people ask is “How do you figure out a sign for your name?” The answer is easy. You make it up. When you introduce yourself to someone new, you spell out your name and then let the person know what your sign name is.
I have a funny story with my name, since I didn’t make my original sign name. My parents decided that my nickname would be the letter T being shook back and forth. For people that don’t know sign language, this makes no sense. Well, that sign also means bathroom. My parents decided to nickname me bathroom. I’m still salty about it.
I’ve now changed my name to a T being squiggled down my face like hair, because I used to do a lot of fun things with my hair but now I’m too lazy so it doesn’t make as much sense. Sign names are fairly easy to make up and there really isn’t much to it. I’ve created names for friends of mine based on things that they enjoy. I have a friend that drinks a lot of beer, so we combined the sign for beer with the sign for S, which is the first letter of his name. So if you want a sign name, it’s really easy to come up with and it’s fun to get to have creativity with it.
I’ve talked about the TTY, but I wanted to touch on the influence of technology on deaf life. Again, this is just what I grew up around, so obviously not all deaf people may have this exact experience.
Growing up, my parents always had the newest technology before most people that I knew. I remember my parents having pagers to reach each other, but I also remember being way too young to understand what it really was.
The next communication device I remember them having was a T-mobile Sidekick and a Blackberry. I loved the Sidekick. I was that kid that was constantly taking my mom’s phone to play games. I was basically the epitome of “You got games?” This was also the era of flip phones, and I remember feeling extremely cool because my parents had cool and high tech phones and I could do so much on their phones.
My parents moved on to Iphones once they became even more popular, and technology has really helped and also hindered their lives. Once again, referencing one of my favorite comedians, Keith Wann, he mentions how talking has turned into just texting and ignoring real life. This is actually one of my favorite jokes and I share it often with people.
There have been a few times at certain jobs throughout my life that I’ve run into deaf people and my background as a CODA comes in handy.
One of the first times that I can remember is back when I worked at a pizza place/Italian restaurant near my house. I wasn’t originally supposed to work that day, but it ended up working out that I covered for a friend, and the stars aligned perfectly. The restaurant hosted a lot of funeral luncheons, and I would often help out by bringing pitchers of soda over. Well, this day, my boss came over in a slight panic and asked for my help. I figured that I would be doing my usual and just filling pitchers and carrying pizzas, but then she informed me that the entire party was completely deaf. I ended up taking everyone’s drink orders and as I was going around, I noticed the priest at one of the tables. His name is Father Joe, and I’ve known him my entire life. I stood there for a minute before he realized that he actually knew me, and that prompted most of the deaf people to start asking me why I knew sign language, and then who my parents are. The deaf community is fairly close, so that’s actually a common question for me. It gets to be surprising how small the world can really be.
Other smaller moments are things like when I worked at Bed, Bath, and Beyond and there was an older couple that were looking for shower curtains and were having problems communicating. I noticed their hearing aids and signed “Are you deaf?” and that sent them into an excited frenzy because they could now easily communicate and their trip took a lot less time than they had planned.
All of my experiences running into deaf people at work have been really positive and it’s really heartwarming to see how much I can help someone, and how excited they get when they see that they’re able to communicate easily with someone and get their errands done just like anyone else.
Most people may think that because I deal with deaf people everyday of my life, it’s easy for me to talk to deaf people that I don’t know. In reality, it’s extremely difficult for me to talk to new deaf people for a number of reasons.
The main reason that I don’t like to approach random deaf people is that I get nervous that I won’t understand a person, or that they won’t understand me. The best way for me to explain it is to say that I’m used to a certain “accent” that my mom and dad have, and because of that, when other people sign, I get flustered by this new “accent” and often times, I’m not totally sure what someone is saying to me.
But also, along with that, when I do see someone having a conversation in public, I tend to stare and try to snoop on others conversations since you can’t just tell that I know sign language by looking at me.
Some of the only times that I have been able to approach someone and use sign language has been certain jobs, and I’ll get into that in next weeks blog!
When it comes to home phones, my set up has always been similar to the norm, but with some added accessories. Growing up, we had something called a TTY. It is essentially a keyboard with a tiny screen. There were a few TTY options, and we had one that had a phone attached and one that was just the keyboard.
With the TTY, there’s a few options when it comes to actually calling people. You could either call someone directly from TTY to TTY, or call them through relay. I hate relay. Nothing against the people that worked there, but it was just always strange talking to a stranger pretending to be your mom or dad.
There is also something that I call TTY grammar. With that little screen, it’s hard to figure out when each person is done with their thought, so when you’re done with a thought, you end the sentence with GA, which stands for Go Ahead. But, if you’re the person speaking on the phone to a relay operator, you have to actually say Go Ahead, which again always felt so weird, but typing this out now, I’m getting very distinct flashbacks. And when your conversation is completely over, you end with SKSK. I have absolutely no idea what that stands for and I have never understood why we couldn’t just say bye and hang up, but I went with the flow.
Now, technology has really grown. Instead of keyboards and random operators, we have Video Phones, also called VP. So now, my mom and dad have video phones attached to the TV and they can basically just chat with their friends whenever. And relay has changed as well. Instead of having random people, the operators have to be able to sign so that they can relay the message.
Another thing to point out about the TTY is that it acted as an answering machine if you didn’t answer quick enough. But the noise it would make if you didn’t answer was this terrible high pitched, robotic beep. I hated that noise and I can’t help but cringe just thinking about it.