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Thursday, February 12, 2009

An Interesting Event

"An Interesting Event"

Many people who are deaf-blind grow up using sign language.
They might have learned Signed English in public schools or
American Sign Language (ASL) from other students at Deaf
schools. It's amazing to see them communicate. Whether
they use tactile sign or sign in the air, their hands
absolutely FLY.
Unfortunately, I didn't grow up signing. Maybe I'm just
another victim of the Oral movement, which forced deaf
children to use lip reading and speech. Now I'm 35 years
old, totally deaf-blind, and struggling to learn sign
language. I'm good at tactile fingerspelling but I need
more than that. It's just not effective enough.
What to do? I'm now taking ASL classes at my local
university. This is my second semester. I'm in ASL ii.
There are six classes in all in the ASL program. I still
have a long way to go.
Tonight the university hosted an interesting sign language
event. They had speakers from Italy here to talk about Deaf
culture, history, and Italian Sign Language. I admit, I
only went because it was required. It's not that the
subject didn't appeal to me. I'm actually half-Italian and
proud of it. I have Italian hear - thick, dark and curly.
I even have the Italian premature gray. (I'm not so proud
of that part.)
My reluctance had to do with my limited sign skills. The
other students got to listen to the interpreter who spoke
for the Deaf presenters. I had to take it all in through
tactile sign language. I'm basically expected to follow the
lecture in the very language I'm trying to learn. As an ASL
ii student, I'm still just a beginner. It's hard.
I had two tactile interpreters. They trade on-and-off as
they get tired. In the deaf-blind community, two
interpreters per DB person is the norm. I got more out of
the presentation than I expected but I still missed a lot.
It seemed to me that the history of the Deaf in Italy
almost mirrored that of the Deaf in America. They started
with miming, later learned fingerspelling, and then fell
under the rule of Oralism. Eventually sign language emerged
and Deaf rights and educational laws were passed. Not
exactly the same as our history but similar.
They talked about culture in Italy and the importance of art
and beauty. They showed pictures but, of course, I couldn't
see them. And they talked about how in Italy the
communities are smaller and life is more relaxed, especially
compared to America where everything is so big and people are
constantly in a hurry.
I was amazed by one thing. Here I was in this room with
over one hundred people. The event was sponsored by Deaf
people, presented by Deaf people, and attended by Deaf
people, ASL students, and others interested in the Deaf
community. And, yet, it was just like any other
presentation I have ever been to. Sure, there was sign
language and interpreters. But otherwise it was exactly
the same as presentations in the hearing world. Wow.
WImagine that!
And there's another thing... Since I started in the ASL
program, I've been making some contacts with new people.
Last year I worked with an ASL iv student. I keep running
into her all the time. Now she's my note taker for ASL ii.
Last semester I worked with an ASL v student. I keep
bumping into her, too. She stopped to say hello to me
tonight. And so did a new ASL iv student I'm working with
now and a Deaf graduate student I recently meant.
I'm doing new things. I'm attending interesting events.
I'm meeting new people. I'm getting out in the world. it's
almost as if I'm a normal person... Almost.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing these intimate moments of your life
    with others. It is only through first-person narratives such as you
    have shared that we will be able to get the word out about the true
    needs of persons who are deafblind. Please continue to share your
    unique talents and special humor with all of us.