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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Silent Games

"Silent Games"

A requirement of my ASL class is that I must attend various
Deaf community visits. It has to be some kind of social
interaction - a group of Deaf people together for a social
event. I must interact with people in sign language,
doing the best I can with my limited ASL skills. That is
what I did tonight at a Deaf Silent Games Night that a
not-so-local Deaf group was hosting.
A friend from my ASL i class last semester offered to
take me to the event. Although we are in different
classes now, we still have to do the same assignments.
It was great being able to attend a social event with a
fellow classmate. That's a new experience for me.
Last semester my parents had to take me to the socials.
How lame is that?
I have to admit that I was pretty nervous about going out
tonight. Part of it was because I had never been among this
particular group before. I didn't know any of these people
or what to expect. And I had never been out with this
friend before, either. We did class assignments together
and worked in the ASL lab once. But this was the first time
I was going out with her somewhere. She would have to guide
me around and help me with some things. I didn't know how
she would react to that.
But it was more than simple nerves about new experiences. I
am always nervous about going out. It doesn't matter if
it's my class, a social, working with upper level ASL
students, an appointment or Physical Therapy. I always have
this feeling of apprehension about going out. I
compulsively hope that whatever it is will be canceled and I
can stay home.
Why do I feel this way? I don't really know. I really do
want to go places and be with people and try new things.
But that sense of anxiety always pops up. I guess it's
because my home is the one place in the world that I can
control. I can get around and find things and do what I
need to on my own. I can be totally independent. When I go
out into the big bad world, I need a lot of help.
Ultimately, however, once I'm out there, I begin to relax
and enjoy myself.
I'm not even sure where this Silent Games night was held or
what kind of games the people were playing. We had to drive
quite a long time to get there. I really wish there were
more Deaf social groups closer to my home. It would make it
a lot easier for me to be involved.
What I do know is that I had a really good time. Oh, at
first it was somewhat awkward. It always is with this kind
of thing. There was a small group of us who had been in ASL
i together. We ended up talking to each other in sign
language instead of talking to the Deaf people. But after
awhile, we began to mingle and meet new people.
And, oh, did I meet a lot of new people! This was an
extremely friendly group and everyone wanted to meet me. It
was a whirlwind of people, hands, questions, and
conversation. I loved it.
Later, I would ask my friend if it was like that for her and
the other ASL students. She was emphatic when she said,
"No!" What is it about me that attracted so many people
from the group? Could it be that I'm a freak, an oddity,
something they've never seen before?
Well, the latter is likely true. Unless someone lives in an
area with a Deaf-blind social group, it is possible for even
Deaf people to go through their lives and never meet a DB
person or try to use tactile sign. There are more of us out
there than you would expect, but it's still a small
population and we are spread out across the nation. Most of
the people I talk to tonight admitted that I was the first
DB person they ever met. They were amazed and excited to
try out tactile sign language. It was a new experience for
them.
But did they think I was a freak or an oddity? I don't
think so. I know that some people will stare at me with
fascination and disbelief. It's only because they've never
seen someone like me before and they don't know how to
react. I don't mind the stares. For one thing, I'm blind
and can't see it. But I also think these people can learn
just from watching me out there in the world. Even if they
don't talk to me, they still get something out of the
experience. It's a form of education and experience.
I think the people in this group tonight were really
attracted to me for a different reason. They find me
inspiring. By seeing what I have to deal with, what I have
to overcome, and what I am doing to try to triumph, they
feel a sense of hope and uplifting spirit. They are proud
just to see me there among them and they all want to be a
part of it... to be a part of me. Oh, shucks.... It's
embarrassing!
So I talked to all these new people tonight. I did okay
with communicating in sign language. I have found that most
Deaf people are very adaptable with communication. They
will slow down for new signers and fingerspell when needed.
They want to be able to successfully communicate and will do
what is needed to make that happen. Sometimes I found it
hard to express myself because I didn't know a certain
sign. I would have to fingerspell the word. And that was
okay with them.
Finally, the night had to come to an end. We took pictures
of the group and then said good bye... many, many goodbyes.
They all asked me to come back again next time. I hope I
can. We drove the long way back. I felt that familiar
sense of relief when I entered my house. I was home....
back in the safety of my own beloved home. But I also felt
sadness. It was a fun night and I was sorry it had to end.

2 comments:

  1. Hi.
    that was a pretty inspiring blog entry. I'm deaf blind too, though I have enough hearing to use hearing aids and be able to communicate to some extent.

    Could you comment on how you actually manage to write your blog? If I weren't able to hear my screen reader I would probably use a braille display. Am curious how it's done if you do have no hearing to speak of. I do know braille displays are painfully afterthoughts in the screen reader community. Take jaws for example, there is no way to set up a braille display by yourself that I know of. And then after that, jaws doesn't pick up braille displays automatically if they get disconnected for some reason, so you really do have to make a stab in the dark and try to restart jaws with virtually no feedback as to whether you're getting it right or not. I do believe the PACMate braille displays do have some direct support from jaws, and from what I hear jaws will use a properly connected PACMate display even while it's being installed. this is a step forward I have to say, but if I couldn't hear at all, I would feel very left out all the same. Trying to imagine how you handle this I thought maybe it was a braille display on a computer, or perhaps braille notes can write to Blogspot blogs now, or something like that. You could educate me and everyone who reads this blog by accident, you know.

    Here's hoping loads of people stick their heads and maybe some other stuff in and read this here blog. If it keeps going on the track it's on, it's going to educate a very large amount of people.

    P.S. Recently, if you missed it, AccessibleWorld did a podcast on some technologies Humanware develops and charges a very pretty penny for deaf blind customers, and someone reportedly transcribed the audio so there is a text transcript of it do to the topic of the podcast. It would be nice if they would keep transcribing those podcasts in the future. they might, if I'm not mistaken they were planning on it.
    http://accessibleworld.org/category/site-categories/tek-talk-archives
    Ok I just had to get that link from the site and indeed from the particular podcast I just mentioned and up to recent, there are "read more" links just above the "audio" links. Wow, this will help me to, since I sometimes can't understand what's being spoken.

    ReplyDelete
  2. DotBug, I have to admit, as a sighted and hearing person, your blog is fascinating so far. I look forward to hearing more about your adventures and your thoughts.

    with love,
    Labelleizzy

    ReplyDelete

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