Commentary about People who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

The post image is somewhere in this post. The following commentary is associated with the image.

Updated: The comments below are my thoughts, information and experience. I’m sure others will have their own, I only ask that you respect that. Especially when it comes to language. The United States of America is a strong monolingual country, which is why English is pushed onto others instead of acknowledging that two languages has a stronger self-worth and value than one. More than 75% of the world speaks two or more languages. (for hoh, when you see it, it means hard of hearing)

1) “We will not be providing captions. However, we’ll be happy to provide you with a transcript afterwards.”

Captioning is a deaf gain – a contribution from the deaf community to a world that benefits from captioning in various different places, even that some hearing people in general can turn off the sound and read what the caption is saying.

Let’s say one of those days you get a video of someone talking about a topic that is important to you. There is no indication of what language it is because you take it for granted that it will be in English. Then you open the video and start watching – you find that the person is signing their information. You try to find the captioning button – it’s not there! Then you will object – “hey! they’re not making this accessible for me!”

People will realize that videos are often captioned for people who are signing impaired/non-signers because WE know what it is like to have information inaccessible to us.

2) “An interpreter on stage will divert attention from the speaker.”

Can you drool while listening to the speaker? Your eyes work and so do your ears. You can watch the interpreter all you want, your ears still work. If you can’t do both at the same time, that ain’t our problem.

Interpreters are there for the same instantaneous response that which you have access to. Captioning is not always reliable and can make mistakes and we have to either wait for it to be corrected or pray that the information we got was the same thing as our seat mate was getting.

3) “Captions will be a distraction for other patrons.”

Excuse me while I cough – no I don’t have COVID-19, knock on wood – what distraction? English has a written communication system (also known as a written language). What is caption? Chopped Klingon? For an education system who strongly advocates for literacy, caption will be a distraction?

How many immigrants learned to read English from captions – most of them. Maybe you should read the captions and grade their ability to translate accurately what the speaker is saying. What about when you’re in a noisy place? You can’t hear the TV…”oh no! Sheesh the Cubs are playing! I gotta know what they’re saying but it’s too loud in here.” Whip out the magic device and hit “CC” – voila!

4) “We forgot to submit the request to the interpreting agency.”

You know, we have laws that push for accessibility. It is a legal obligation to provide an interpreter when requested. There are other communication methods and WHEN a deaf person is ASKED (not assumed) what methods are best, follow the person.

Now if we’re talking about fiscal obligation – let’s see. If you notify an agency more than 48 hours (depending on their policy, this is a common one), it won’t cost you an arm or leg. Now if you say – “oh crap! I forgot to contact the agency.” You call them and they tell you the price that will cost you an arm and a leg, you’re like “ehhh, never mind”. That is why deaf people for the most part will let you know the moment the appointment is made to make sure you contact the interpreter agency within a reasonable amount of time…. that will not cost you an arm and a leg. WE know!!!!

5) “We’re sorry the captions did not work well, we’ll try better next time.”

Know what? You could say, “dang, sorry let me email you the transcript and the next video we will have our captions better than the one you watched” or “let me send you a link of the video with updated captions when it’s done. We appreciate your letting us know and you are a fantastic human being for that.”

6) “Bring a family member to interpret for you.”

I am a deaf person sandwiched between two generations of hearing people (my kids are CODAs) and I am within the 90-95% of the deaf/hard of hearing population whose parents are hearing. I can understand a time back then when we didn’t have technology or interpreting services when children could be used to interpret.

Let’s look at language proficiency when it comes to interpreting information. Hearing parents who do not master or attempt to learn sign language or its coded systems may not be able to translate accurately what someone says in an appointment. Me signing may be taken out of context because of my language proficiency is greater than my family member who can sign. Now, I hope the CODAs who grew up being “scared” of me can understand why I advocate for a full language use among deaf parents and hearing children (I know, I’m going through this too) – children do not have the knowledge – the context – to be able to interpret information the same way one can as an adult. Children are susceptible to stress and pressure to do something that they are not ready to do.

Let me give you a scenario: Let’s say, a deaf person gets into a car accident and the kids are with them. Instead of getting an interpreter or at least communicating directly with the deaf parent – the officers will ask the kids to interpret. Let’s see: accident, kids’ parent, interpreting? That’s emotional trauma that the kid has to go through. The parent needs to be asked first and I will say no, my kids ain’t interpreting, they’re already stressed by the accident. Get an interpreter or use a communication method that will work for a short time.

7) “None of our videos are captioned, we’ll just give you a credit for your next purchase.”

What in the heck am I purchasing if I don’t get what your videos are saying? I don’t have value as a customer? Most people will be happy to take that credit but they will not educate on why the captioning for the product is important. Pitiful. I guarantee you that you’ve lost me as a customer.

The bolded numbers and lines are from the this post. The post was created by Bold blue box on top with red circular numbers on the left side.
Facebook post on my page: 25 June 2020. Credits are in the post/image.

8) “We can’t afford the accommodations you’re asking for.”

Well there are several factors within this process: timing, type of accommodation, frequency and availability. Most of you don’t realize this, if you ask in advance, you will not be charged an arm or a leg (see number 4). There are alternate accommodations that you could discuss with the person instead of saying the above statement. The law will look at how much you make a year, not how much you will make during the appointment with the deaf/hoh person.

A lot of times deaf/hoh people are told “You don’t know how to communicate, you’re deaf” or “You can’t communicate with us.” Total BS – deaf and hard of hearing people’s communication toolbox is whole lot bigger than yours. We know how to use different resources and we’re probably more tech savvy than a lot of people we encounter.

Know why it’s BS? You. don’t. know. how. to. communicate. with. someone. especially. when. they. are. deaf. or. hard of hearing. The attitude and assumption that we don’t know how to communicate is what is preventing you from gaining a new understanding or a new path to your journey in working with someone different from you.

9) “We’re not going to get an interpreter for our meetings… it’s alright if you don’t join us.”

Now if I could find a job after that, I would said adios! That is why we have lawsuits. I find it sad that if you are willing to leave someone out of a meeting, that the work environment will become hostile all around. It is also inefficient to transmit information second hand. You know the telephone relay game – information will be lost in the process of passing on information.

At the same time, you could have a discussion with the deaf/hoh person and looking into alternative access or making an agreement on when interpreters are important or when it is not necessary – the deaf/hoh person will know better than you – like I said in number 8 – our communication toolbox is bigger than yours.

Besides, why would I or anyone want to work for someone like that – rude, inconsiderate and how in the heck did you lead a group? Sheesh!

10) “We didn’t get you an interpreter because you can read lips.”

Go turn the TV on, turn off the voice and read people’s lips. I guarantee you can’t even last 5 minutes. While most deaf and hard of hearing people are from no lipreading skills to proficient skills – you don’t know what happens to us when we get home or to a place where there is no or less visual stimulation. We. are. pooped. (exhausted, mentally drowning….probably more adjectives than you can handle).

*Lipreading uses only the facial area. Signing uses the entire body (mostly head to torso).
*Do people stay on topic? This is important to the lipreader that people stay on topic.
*Is the person speaking facing the lipreader.
*Is the person speaking normally or exaggerating.
*Is the person mumbling.
*Is the number of people in the meeting a good size, easy to follow, or is it too big and can’t follow everyone.

We have to consider a lot of factors when it comes to lipreading – just because we can proficiently lipread a single person doesn’t mean that we can proficiently lipread a group of people. Not all people speak the same way – I prefer talking with Hispanics or Italians, know why? They also gesture while they speak – it’s a natural cultural byproduct with their language. English speakers……ain’t saying no more.

11) “It’s okay if we don’t have an interpreter, (John Doe) will take notes for you.”

When I am in that situation, I prefer to have information beforehand such as topics or agenda (applicable to number 10). Maybe I prefer someone else to type information. Maybe I prefer to use technology instead of someone taking notes. Not everyone takes good notes, some are willing but will submit inadequate information that I would have to go asking people for clarification. Really? You call that efficient? Maybe it’s fiscally efficient for you, but you know, my job is at stake (especially in the “at-will” states).

12) “You achieved so much despite being Deaf!”

Yeah, we achieved a lot by having to work with sarcastic and inconsiderate people. Yes, we’re deaf, guess what, we’re also human. Our journeys are different, our experiences are different, and our knowledge is different. We will share some of the same experiences but we will always be different and our achievements should be beyond being Deaf. I have two legs and I can learn how to dance by feeling the music, it’s an adaptation that works despite the “loss” of something that you will not understand to begin with.

We should be applauded for our achievement with so many barriers put in front of us by society and people who continue to believe the myths about us, otherwise, get out of our way.

Why should achievement be solely based on one aspect of a person? Think about that.

13) “You don’t look Deaf.”

Yep, we’re an invisible minority. That’s why we can fool you and laugh about it. You will not even know that we’re deaf until we mention it. Your mind, “ahhh, what to do what to do!?” Learn from us – take it in stride. Be flexible, be ready to learn, be ready to have your mind blown – we’re humans and we look just like you – no exception.

“You don’t look like a Martin.” Ummm…

14) “You speak really well for a Deaf person.”

I have people I work with who don’t know that I can speak or that I am a functional bilingual. I am now out of the language closet. There are several reasons why I don’t speak in public. The statement above is one of them. I am sure that some will agree with the following:

*You’re not deaf, you’re faking it.
*Are you sure you’re deaf, maybe you’re hard of hearing.
*Why are we providing an interpreter if you can speak that well.

It is inconsiderate to ask someone to speak for you when you will not provide equal access to communication back to the person who is deaf or hard of hearing. It is not cruel to not speak a spoken language when one has had speech training or therapy for most of their childhood/teenage years, with the outcome range of incomprehensible speech to fluency as a hearing person. We live in a country that believes in monolingualism. Most of us are forced to speak for the sake of others. A few will achieve mastery because of their ability, passion, desire and willingness to learn how to speak along with signing.

The voice box functions separately from the ear, mainly. The reason why we have an accent or we speak softly/loudly is because we don’t hear ourselves. Technical aids can only go so far. That’s why we have training/therapy.

Another reason why I don’t speak is because I teach ASL. I am not just teaching ASL, I am also teaching students to communicate in different ways so that they are prepared and open to being able to communicate with others who are different from them.

I only ask for respect in my choice regardless of what reason you may want to know. You don’t need to know.

15) “I’ll tell you later… it’s not that important.”

90-95% of us have experienced this one time or another. Some people who do not experience this kind of situation will object to the deaf/hoh person having a book, phone or leaving the table early when eating with others at the table.

When that statement is repeated – it is telling us that we have no value at the table with you, that our being a part of this family is insignificant. And you wonder why we are so excited to stay with our friends who share the same language instead of joining family events? If we can have a consistent information exchange without the “never mind”, “tell you later” or “it’s not important”, where do you think we prefer to be? Abandoned, left alone, inadequately informed or connected, valued and well informed? Whole human being or half of one?

(Dinner Table Syndrome paper)…

I will not be surprised if some will say “but it’s hard learning sign language”, people – it’s hard to learn and practice speaking when you can’t hear yourself with or without technical aids. If you want your child to participate – practice this: one at a time, clearly face the child, ask the child questions, listen to the child, direct specific information to the child (instead of answering for the child) and just above all be considerate of others who are at the table. You leave one out, I guarantee that you’re missing something out of your life.

There are exceptions to what we experience. My family is one of those exceptions, because we were allowed to experience each other’s lives as much as we can and from that we gain a better understanding in how we can be a proactive change in the society in which we live in. We do have our struggles but our love and respect outweighs.

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