Tonight I had the opportunity to teach a group of hearing, plus one becoming deaf, people about my world.
I had been working on it for a while, especially in preparing a series of slides and making an outline of what to talk about in the allotted hour that I was given. That was a challenge. There is SO much I could say about it.
I narrowed it down to the basics- Hearing loss, how we try to function in a hearing world, and all the things that involve our lives, such as closed captioning, hearing aids, and interpreters. I figured that would be good enough information to help them understand a little bit of our world.
I was pretty nervous all day about how I was going to start, and yet, I knew I was going to be okay. I had my slide show done, and got some ear plugs to have my “students” put in their ears to give them a little bit of deafness for a game I had planned on doing.
I started out with explaining a bit of about the wide range of deafness and what mine was, which was from birth. It was interesting to see the reaction of how my mother didn’t know I was deaf until I was around 3 years old. I shared a little of my own memories of hearing with my hearing aids for the first time.
I signed and spoke as I went along… Then I had everyone put their earplugs in. We came to find out they didn’t cancel out a whole lot of sound, so I modified the game to where I just whispered the words while they wore the ear plugs. It was hilarious! Simple words had them baffled. We laughed as we saw each other’s puzzled faces, even after repeating the words several times. I had them write down what they thought I said, and at the end of the game, we all had a lot of fun seeing who got it right and who didn’t. We also had a little bit of fun hearing what others thought I had said when they were wrong. I went on to say that reading lips for a long period of time, for a Deaf person, is exhausting. I saw one person, who is going deaf, nod with agreement.
The next thing we talked about was the variety of hearing aids over time, and I even threw in a comical picture of a “hearing aid” that was an exaggerated piece of art in reality. I shared about the struggles of having a hearing aid, especially with how expensive they are. The topic of the Cochlear Implant was also brought up, and, even though it’s not something I feel is right for me, it is an option for anyone who feel it is for them.
TTYs and TTDs came up, and then I discussed how videophone has opened such a great way for Deaf people to make phone calls. I had tried to call a friend on my VP, but there was a bit of a technical difficulty. Fortunately, I had the sense to have some pictures of what a VP conversation roughly looks like. The class could even see a picture of how VRS (Video Relay Service) works. What was really awesome was we had someone who worked at the 911 center share his own experience of working with the relay services to help Deaf people who needed the 911 service.
When we came to talk about ASL (American Sign Language), I shared a little bit of history and how sign language is different in every country. I showed a little bit of what I knew of BSL ABC signs. It was a bit awkward. I told the story of my brother’s experience of finding out how different Australian sign language was from the sign language he had learned from being my brother. We had a little fun of showing how expressive the language is and the necessity of facial expression. My daughter even piped up about how it looks when I am mad. “Show them, Mom!” I told her no… I didn’t want to scare them off!
Before we knew it, the hour was over. Questions shot up and a lot of them were really good ones. The creation of name signs, how to learn the language – book vs. class, and questions about my own experiences.
Now that I’m done with this class, I am wondering where this will take us… Perhaps a sign class? I think it would be a great way to open up communication between Deaf and Hearing people, even if its just in my church! One thing I am excited about is being able to help a couple communicate with ASL with one of them becoming deaf. They’re looking forward to it, and I am, too.