So, what happens when you're a student at a university noted for its insular deaf culture, and you don't proficiently know American Sign Language? Or worse, you can hear? The university's culture changes.
Great piece by The Washington Post on Gallaudet University’s evolving culture, which includes students who didn’t grow up in schools for the deaf (but instead, public schools) as well as hearing students being taught instruction in sign language. This is a big evolution for the school, which as recently as five years ago heavily protested the appointment of a school president who (while deaf) did not grow up learning American Sign Language. That proposed president, Jane Fernandes, eventually had to give up the opportunity, and considers herself a victim of an ongoing war within deaf culture. “There remains entrenched at Gallaudet a strong deaf culture that perpetuates a very narrow way to live as a deaf person,” she claims. Fascinating story about a small, insular subsection of the world.
Director: Ted Evans
Starting in the 1980’s, drama ‘The End’ follows 4 Deaf children over 60 years. After the introduction of a treatment aimed at eradicating deafness, the very survival of Deaf language and culture is at stake. Featuring stunning visual effects and an ensemble cast, ‘The End’ is a thought-provoking alternative vision of the future.
Submitted by: surduss
CJ Jones says:
“What’s wrong with being deaf? I’m deaf. I’m fine. I function fine. I drive. I have a family. I’ve made a baby. I make people laugh. I travel. What the hell is going on? Like I have to hear that has nothing to do with it. It’s all about knowledge; it’s about the heart. It’s about abilities, about doing something you want and getting what you want out of life…Knowledge is the most powerful vehicle to success, not hearing, not speaking…”
You’ve Heard Wrong, I’m Deaf-initely Normal
by Erik W.
Second Prize – Creative Non-Fiction
Calliope Best in Publication 2008
“Can your parents have sex?” “Can your parents ride bicycles?” “So, like, your parents can read braille?” Anybody reading these questions would be compelled to imagine my parents with some kind of affliction of the legs, aliment of the eyes, or indisposition of the genital region. Yet questions like those were an-all-too-common experience of my childhood. I regularly fielded “cracking of a bat” questions like those out of the park daily. Apparently having Deaf parents gave people some grand illusion that I led a bizarre, abnormal life when I was at home. Do things that are considered normal for me, make your differences consequently abnormal? Could it be that we are all normal in different ways? Is normalcy relative?
“Marco! Polo!” is what “normal” families say to each other at pool time. My family, my unduly-labeled underprivileged family, can stay underwater and carry out full conversations in Sign Language. So, please, I implore you, ask me which of the two is the disabled family in this Special Olympic-sized pool. I’ll just be wading around in the water, hanging out with the fish as the force of this revelation knocks you off your life-saving-flotation device. “Lifeguard!”
“AHEAMM!” a clearing of the throat is a common way I’ve seen parents of my friends call attention to each other. BANG BANG B A N G, STOMP STOMP S T O M P, sends vibrations racing through the floor, table, wall, whatever surface happens to be nearby and into the sensors of whomever we are trying to call. A succession of quick flicks to the light switch is how we alert each other that there is a need to converse. Waving my hand until it catches the peripheral of my parents eyes’ and hooks them like a fish on the end of a rod, I keep moving my hands ‘till I finally reel their eyes onto me; attention is attention.
Hearing families can talk to each other from different rooms in a house, provided there isn’t any superfluous noise floating around. Deaf families, however, can carry on a conversation across a crowded room of people, providing there aren’t too many tall, big-headed people standing between the two communicators. It’s like the bumper sticker a lot of 18-wheeler trucks sport on the back that says: “If you can’t see my mirrors, then I can’t see you,” except in this case it would be more like, “If you can’t see me, then I can’t hear you.” So it doesn’t matter whether you’re a car stuck behind a big rig or a Deaf person stuck behind a big head, sometimes you just have to move.
In a hearing family, one might be scolded for talking with a mouth full of food. In a Deaf family, we can efficiently chew and sign at the same time, we’re only scolded when we talk with a knife in our hand. See, dinner-table etiquette tries to rule everybody - some choose to follow said rules – others choose to evolve; these evolved individuals are now commonly referred to as Deaf people.
When a child from a hearing family is upset, he might decide to swear under his breath. When I was mad I used to fling finger-spelled swear words at teachers from my see-no-evil hear-no-evil hand tucked away in my pant pocket. For the record, punishment for saying a bad word was not having our hands washed with soap! Although I was not above trying that angle in an argument between my parents and me about what exactly fair punishment should constitute in such a scenario, I would always say, let the punishment fit the crime. Punish my hand for its slip of the finger, not my chastity-belt-wearing tongue of innocence. Funny, my mouth always ended up with a zesty flavor no matter how hard I argued my case, while my fingers would still have dirt lodged under the half-moon-shaped smile of the nail.
Hearing families almost never make eye contact with each other when they talk. Apparently normal families don’t value eye contact; it makes people feel uncomfortable. The only time you see hearing families locked in a stare is when two people are arguing with each other, and they don’t dare take their eyes away. In my Deaf family we must have eye contact with each other, except when we argue. I guess at some point during arguments, Deaf people like to take the time to reevaluate the commodity of looking at one another.
My parents can have sex, how do you think I got here? Who do you think taught me to ride a bicycle? Do your parents buy bargain braille books from the discount bin at Barnes and Blind, why would mine? Your parents nod their heads to the music your words make as they beat against their eardrums; my parents pupils’ dilate with delight as I conduct a symphony of signs directed at the comprehending blinks of, “Uh-huh, I see,” played out before their corneas. The ability to understand and be understood; to hear and have your thoughts heard, whether figuratively or literally, this is what matters the most.
I’ll be the first to proudly state that our families are different, but don’t you dare say that mine isn’t normal. Normal is as normal does. Every family is different in some way or another, so being different, like all families are, makes your family normal. My family is made normal in the difference that our families share. Being different is a result of one’s experiences, experience is wholly unique to each individual, so difference is the only thing without exception that people across the spectrum of age, race, gender, religion, and culture share in common. I guess you could say being different isn’t so different after all.
“When Henrietta resident Amy Sargent lost her hearing in her late 20s, she had little assistance for what she would be facing. She spent well over five years getting acclimated to being a “deafie” and has lived as one for 15 years…”