Patriotic Duty: Voting and Sitting on a Jury

Since Tuesday was election day in the U.S.A. and I saw this article from New Zealand that talks about deaf on juries. Sign language interpreters are making it possible for the deaf to do jury duty.
I remember a few years ago reading about a court that had technology so a deaf jurist could read the text. That’s my kind of solution. I’ve been called to jury duty about five times or so and got out every time because of my deafness. No, no, I’d be glad to do my patriotic duty. The court didn’t have a way for me to follow along, so they let me go.
This is where some say I should learn sign language. Then all the court would need to do is bring on an interpreter and it would help in other situations. Well, first of all, getting an interpreter isn’t always an easy process.

The second reason is I don’t want sign language to become a crutch. I’ve seen several intelligent deaf people who grew up orally like I did learn sign language later in life only to withdraw from oral conversations. Their speech quality also went down. I talked to someone about this last week and she also knows a couple of people who experienced the same thing: lipreading and speech skills dropping as a result of becoming more fluent in sign language.
Considering the majority of my world is hearing, I’m better off doing things the hard way: lipreading and speaking. That’s my reason for not learning sign language. By the way, I did take a sign language course in college (accidentally got into the class, not because I wanted to learn it) and I got Cs in that class. I was not a C student in college as I graduated with a decent GPA. For some unknown reason, I didn’t like the professor.
While in that class, we took a field trip to Gallaudet University and toured the college. We also had a speaker who spoke to the class using sign language with an interpreter on the side who spoke for him. Naturally, I was looking at the interpreter because I had to lipread. This is considered rude as the listener should look at the deaf person. Well, if I do that, I can’t hear a thing he says.
The speaker caught me looking at the interpreter and noted it in front of the class. I explained why and he went about his speech.


    • Dan on November 10, 2005 at 2:54 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks for sharing this experience. Our daughter is hard of hearing and wears hearing aids. She had been having an interpreter there for her, but we’re going through a trial period of not having one for her now.
    We recently had an IEP meeting at school, and a deaf woman was there, along with an interpreter, who sat across from her. I found myself alternating back and forth from the interpreter and the deaf woman.
    We’ve always thought that our daughter should have sign language available as there is the probability that she will lose more hearing as she gets older – her cochleas were not formed completely when she was born.
    One audiologist suggested that she might be a candidate for a cochlear implant, but we realize that the implant is not a panacea – a cure-all for the situation.
    She’s got an audiologist appointment at the end of the month, so we’ll see how things go there.

  1. Of course, just because I won’t learn sign language for fear of losing my speech and lipreading skills — it doesn’t mean I believe this is the case for everyone. Every situation is different and I live in a completely hearing world.

    • Alicia on November 15, 2005 at 7:31 pm
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    I can understand why you are concerned about a decrease in speech/lipreading quality, since all the important people in your life are hearing. What I’m not so sure about is that sign language in and of itself is the cause. What you’ve noted is a correlation and not necessarily a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Rather than sign language *causing* the decrease, I would postulate that perhaps after learning sign language, those people met other people who used sign language and found that the quality of their conversations with those people was of better quality than that of conversations using only speech/lipreading. Thus they found more personal fulfillment in spending time with other sign language users, and their need to speak using only auditory methods decreased, and they didn’t work as hard at it.
    Maintaining the quality of speech and lipreading skills, as I understand it, can require a tremendous amount of time and energy from someone with a hearing loss. With sign language, though, minimal energy is needed to maintain one’s skills. It could be that those people decided that the tradeoff in time and energy to maintain their speech and lipreading skills was no longer necessary for their own life situations, and that it would be better spent on other life pursuits. Thus it is the shifting of priorities, not sign language itself, that would cause the decrease in speech/lipreading quality.
    Again, as you said, it is different for different life situations. I know a lot of people with varying levels of hearing loss who are able to both sign and speak fluently. It all boils down to what one’s priorities are.

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