Deaf Culture

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Deaf Culture
Carolyn Mason

I was interested in immersing myself with this group because they are a community of people that I’ve often wondered about. I’ve always wondered about the way they communicate with others and was it hard being deaf or hearing impaired in some ways. As myself, I learned that most people feel uncomfortable when meeting a Deaf person for the first time and this is very normal. When we communicate with people, we generally don’t have to think about the process. When faced with a Deaf person, we are uncertain which rules apply. We don’t know where to look, or how fast or loud to speak. When the Deaf person gives us a look of confusion, we don’t know how to correct the problem. Accept the fact that your initial communications will feel uncomfortable and awkward. I learned at the deaf event that as you interact more, you will start to feel more comfortable and know how to make yourself understood. A friend of mine took American Sign Language as one of her college courses. From what she was telling me and demonstrating, it seems to be an interesting subject and I’ve thought about taking it. Quina was of good use when I chose this topic. She was able to inform me on events which were held for the deaf community. I decided to attend one of the deaf events with her. Apart of the deaf community where individuals who communicate via signed languages, individuals who attended schools for the deaf, children of deaf parents, and sign language interpreter. Although culturally deaf people use sign language, not all signers are deaf. There are many hearing signers who grow up in or interact with culturally deaf communities. Because deaf people usually have hearing parents, many have relatives who learn sign language and become involved in deaf communities. And like children born to Spanish-speaking families in the United States, hearing children of deaf parents learn spoken English from relatives, friends, and other English-speaking adults in their neighborhood. They grow up bilingual in ASL and English, and move between the two cultures. I was able to see and experience some of the ways deaf and hearing impaired people communicate. This particular deaf event is held twice a month at the Starbuck’s located in St. Matthews Mall. It is called a “Deaf coffee chat” and they fellowship with one another. Several other events were held at other Starbuck’s locations also. I learned when communicating with the deaf community, you should be comfortable as with any one else. Giving them eye contact makes them feel comfortable. Some use sign language, some use interpreters and some read lips. People who describe themselves as “hard of hearing “or “deafened” do not see themselves as members of the Deaf culture. Some may know sign language but their primary language is English. Each was unique in his or her own way. They don’t want to be looked as having a disability or being different from other’s who aren’t deaf or hearing impaired. I had the opportunity to interview one of the people who were part of the deaf community. Her name is Mary Wilson. Mary was a young lady in her mid thirties. She was born deafened. She used ASL (American Sign Language). My friend Quina introduced us and she interpreted for us, although there was a sign interpreter there. She could tell I was very nervous, I told her I was writing an essay on the deaf community. She was happy that I took an interest. She said most people don’t bother especially if they don’t have to deal with someone that’s deaf or hearing impaired. I was honored to have the opportunity. She explained that she lives her life to the fullest, just as a person who can hear. Mary stated that she has lived her whole life using sign. She taught me how to sign hello, nice to meet you, and goodbye. It was really nice meeting her and observing the different ways each of them communicate and have such an enjoying time with one another. They all sit around and share coffee and lattes...
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