I appreciate Kayla Davis sharing her experience as the child of parents who are deaf in January 4’s Viewpoints. However, readers need to hear (no pun intended) another person’s perspective. When my parents found out I was born profoundly deaf, they chose to raise me orally. As a result, I learned how to communicate by reading lips and speaking instead of using sign language.
Like Davis’ parents, I’ve run into awkward situations like being offered a wheelchair. While riding an elevator, my husband’s co-worker asked him if I could read Braille on the elevator’s buttons. When my husband first told his mother about me, she asked if I can talk. “Yes, in three languages,” he said.
Yes, some people misjudge us deaf folks. It’s often because they have little experience with us and need a little education; even well-educated people like Vice President Al Gore. After I talked to him, he said thanks in sign language. I thanked him and revealed that I didn’t know sign language. It wasn’t to embarrass him – it was to teach him and those listening to our conversation that not all deaf people are the same. Helen Keller said it well: “The highest result of education is tolerance.”
Davis rightfully expressed frustration with her parents’ neighborhood theater, which stopped providing captions. She also explained they had to wear bulky caption glasses to view movies. Maybe she’s not aware, but Cinemark offers a different captioning technology.
Cinemark has a bendable arm with that fits into the theater seat cup holder. Attached to the arm is a small display with the captions. It allows me to see most movies with family and friends without the uncomfortable glasses. Sure, the device is noticeable, but no one has given me strange looks.
I also take issue with her disappointment in ABC Family’s Switched at Birth. The show’s writers have done an excellent job of educating the audience on the diversity of the deaf population. The writers compromised by having the main deaf character speak, read lips and use sign language. They have introduced deaf characters with a variety of communication traits. For example, one regular deaf character uses sign language and never speaks. Because Davis quit viewing the show after a season and a half, she missed a few insightful episodes, one of which was entirely in sign language.
It’s ironic that Davis writes, “They [deaf people] are unique individuals, and they are just like us.” This is what Switched at Birth is about — unique individuals who communicate in different ways and come from families where some know sign language and some don’t. It’s not a perfect show, but it’s a great resource for educating people about the deaf.
Another valuable resource is the Special Needs Partnership of Dallas Jewish Family Services’ “Inclusion Experience: Taking a Walk in Different Shoes,” an educational program for schools, youth groups and organizations. Its interactive, multi-sensory curriculum simulates the effects of a variety of developmental and physical disabilities to build awareness and create an environment of inclusion and empathy.