WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN YOU ASK ME ABOUT MY DEAFNESS (2/2)

Continued from my blog entry dated on 23 November 2018.

With permission from the students who wish to do their school project related to Deafness in Singapore, I decided to publish my answers to the list of common questions, which I needed to tweak here.

*Can you share your story with us? What is a day in your life like?
It is just a typical day of a part-time student, and a freelancer; achieving work tasks in the daytime, while attending classes in the evening. Occasionally, I teach sign language 2-3 times a week. I also perform upon the requests.

*Discussing employment issues that the Deaf community faces, what difficulties do you face when communicating with a hearing person?
I think deaf people should not face such difficulties in communicating with a hearing person. It is all because the mainstreamed society still lacks an awareness about deaf people. Partly, attitudinal barriers and communication systems could be another possible reason. It is not our fault as being Deaf (in the first place) to have such problems with them.

There are various ways of communicating; namely pen & paper, communication technology, sign language interpreting services, note-taking services, video relay services, etc. We keep on finding ways to communicate with people, but we all need patience and understanding from them.

Whether socialising, networking or working, I mostly communicate with hearing persons by writing on paper. If the hearing person knows Sign Language, I will be more than glad to communicate with this person.
If the hearing person meets me for the first time, and does not know how to approach me, I will guide him/her. In the meantime, I self-advocate.

I really admit here; I am much fortunate to be very proficient in English Language and Singapore Sign Language. So far, I face less difficulties in communicating. When I attend lectures, I need to have the sign language interpreter and/or note-taker with me. When they are not available, I will use the Otter.ai app, and this might be the last resort that I gotta turn to.

*The (research) studies have found that only one in 10 employers surveyed have positive attitudes towards hiring deaf people, and one in two admit they have no intention to do so. Have you personally experienced such prejudices, or have you heard of others being a victim of these prejudices?
I understand that prejudice is defined as perceived, biased opinions. Due to my deafness that could be a blessing in disguise, I couldn’t hear anyone who might say bad things behind my back. Unless someone is willing to interpret what’s going on, I will never have any knowledge. However, discriminatory behaviours could be seen, such as not using sign language or pen/paper (other communication modes) on purpose, setting a low wage (as an act of unfair treatment, merely for ‘compensation’), and shouting for a few times (even after having a better clarification at the first approach), or refusing to accommodate to our needs.

*What would you like to say to hearing people about such prejudices?
Hearing people often see us as “people who live in silence”, “people who are often lonely or depressed”, “people who are unable to hear” or “people who cannot speak”. The medical and charity models of deafness are adopted by these people to perceive us in a such way to compensate for hearing loss or deficiency.

This time, we need to reframe ‘hearing loss’ to ‘Deaf Gain’ as in the social model of deafness. The term, “Deaf Gain” was coined in 2005 to challenge those derogatory perceptions by the hearing people, as well as. Proposed by Dr. H-Dirksen Bauman and Dr. Joseph Murray, this notion “presents a response to contemporary waves of normalization that threaten the signing deaf community” (Legg & Sok, 2012), so it calls for an exploration of what it means to be human for equality and diversity. In other words, it reframes the idea of deafness into something positive, offering a diversity of experiences and perspectives that can benefit everyone (whether hearing or d/Deaf). Its examples are demonstrated in the provision of captions/subtitles, and baby signs for hearing mothers and their babies. Knowing Sign Language can be useful when communicating in a quiet place, like a library. Or signers can communicate with one another in far distances without having to raise their voices and disturb other people.

We are not here to be fixed by hearing people. It’s now a time for the hearing people to listen to us with their eyes and hearts, to embrace what we are in their lives, and to figure out ways to accommodate to one another in every environment. In a such way, prejudices could be possibly removed while making judgements about us.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

Introduction to Participatory Arts & Inclusive Classroom Pedagogies (Nov-Dec 2019)

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: “My back is aching!” Lily Goh and Alicia acted out that thought. Alicia’s left hand is on the back-hip, while Lily Goh’s right hand crosses over her shoulder-back.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: 14 adults stand in a circle.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Two rows of people pose for the group photo. The standing row holds a string of blue and yellow flags.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Lily Goh poses beside Jodi-Alissa Bickerton who is the Creative Learning Director from Graeae Theatre Company.

Grateful to the Access Path Productions for giving me opportunities to learn more about participatory arts, as well as different perspectives from teachers, social-service workers, museum professionals and other leaders. Also learnt about creative access.

The inaugural Theatre for Development (TfD) programme is a participatory arts practice that allows communities to tell their stories, using drama & storytelling techniques. It lasted for 6 weeks.

I’m pleased to have shared some of the Visual-Gestural Communication activities with the teachers and social-service workers, so that they could improvise their pedagogies for future, inclusive classroom. Not only me, but there are other artists, like Kaite O’Reilly and Wheelsmith who offered their insights into their craft.

Led by Jodi-Alissa, she got us to come up with our final product this week. I have tried to invite a few of my deaf friends to watch it yesterday, but all of them couldn’t make it. Alright.

One of my few biggest wishes is to see our local Deaf theatrical scene becoming alive once again, just like the Hi! Theatre so happening in the 1990s. This could be my vision as I have been exploring different crafts of storytelling (since late-2016), and almost all of them are led by Hearing. However, it is really hard for me to apply to what I have learnt from them. At this moment, I have been figuring out how to continue applying my learning, and take a lead for Deaf Singapore Theatre once again.

Looking back to my past memories when I spent together with my former voluntary group, XTOMIC that was under SADeaf, I had been a volunteer for many years (since I started in 1999). I had performed with Deaf & Hearing volunteers. We promoted deaf awareness through our performances, mostly literal song-signing and musicals. Moulin Rouge, KFC Christmas. With ExtraOrdinary Horizons, I continued to present our debut gigs, such as Amazing Deaf Production @Esplanade (2011), Chai Tao Kway

I have shared the above links here with you here to understand better about Deaf and Disabled Arts.

Someone told me, “You’re already out there knocking on doors. It’s Singapore that is failing you, not recognising your talent and putting you on bigger platforms”. Yeah, I have many bad days in my life. Quite tiring to keep on telling the public that Deaf people are capable of doing everything, except hear. But I never give up. Persist all the way. I really hope the world can wake up to us at last, and give us boundless opportunities.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

TRUE/FALSE #QUIZ: Deaf people, as a whole, are good lipreaders.

Found at this link.

The answer is FALSE.

Lipreading is not an effective skill. It is not suitable for the faster mode of communication. Some words look the same on the lips/mouth, for example, MAN, BAN, PAN… Another example is I-LOVE-YOU, that might be possibly misread as COLOURFUL.

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DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

TRUE/FALSE #QUIZ: If a deaf person is having difficulty understanding you, talking louder helps.

Found at this link.

The answer is FALSE.
Shouting at anyone is considered rude; talking louder to a deaf person is no different. Find other ways to communicate with the deaf; writing helps. Hmm, learning sign language could be fun, and it will bring you unique experiences when interacting with Deaf.

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DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

TRUE/FALSE #QUIZ: Is Sign Language universal (the same in every country)?

Found at this link.

The answer is FALSE.
Yeah, Singapore has its own Sign Language. It’s called Singapore Sign Language. In short form, it is SgSL, not SSL (Shanghainese Sign Language). There is no official definition, unlike ASL’s. We still wait for our national body to make an announcement about its official definition. We had our community discussion in early 2019.

American Sign Language has its over 200 years of history. Our SgSL is established and developed since the early 1950s. It had its influences from SSL, ASL and SEE2 (Signing Exact English 2) because of national education policies and language policies. Now we develop our locally generated sign vocabulary for our local culture and food.

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DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

My First-time Experiences with the SSO National Day Concert (2019)

[THIS ABOVE IMAGE IS DOWNLOADED FROM SSO FACEBOOK PAGE]

Grateful to the SSO for giving this opportunity to d/Deaf to enjoy the National Day celebrations at Esplanade Concert Hall, especially when the interpretation in Singapore Sign Language was provided for us last Saturday.

I decided to write this blog about my experiences attending this concert for the first time this year. My opinions are different from those of my Deaf peers who attended it.

The first half of the concert was complex for me to listen, partly because of my profound deafness. I know that Jeremy Monterio is renowned for his jazz piano music. It’s really hard for me to follow this kind of tempo and rhythm. Even if I play this kind of song, it is really very challenging for me. Well, many see me as the Deaf musician in Singapore. Sometimes, they mention that I remind them of Evelyn Glennie, who is a famous world-class percussionist. I actually do not like to be the subject of comparison, based on musicality. Yes, I am different from other deaf musicians, like Dr. Azariah Tan, and Ron Tan. Although I had obtained the certificates in ABRSM Percussion (Grade 6 & 8 with Merit), I may not play great as you think.

When I watched Jeremy Monteiro Jazz Trio (namely, Jeremy Monteiro (piano), Tamagoh (drums) & Christy Smith (bass)) perform with the orchestra, it was really intriguing or fascinating to look at them. However, it was tough to listen (even if the sign language interpreter tried her best interpreting their music).

During their music playing, I then remembered about my ReSound multi-mic. I quickly connected it to my hearing aids, and the sounds became clearer (with less noise, which is cut off from the (open) environment). But still, there was no difference.

The second half was more enjoyable for my peers and me. We shared their feedback with one another. The interpretation quality of this year was better than the previous one as she tried her best to allow us to resonate our deaf, visual minds (based on musicality) to the music & songs, such as Kampong Overture, the Awakening, March On, Our Singapore Dream and Home, with her interpretation. It would be better and more powerful to have conceptual interpretation and representation by Deaf.

Not only having the interpretation for Deaf, but also feeling music (through air-filled balloons) is another alternative for music appreciation. There are many other ways for us to enjoy arts and music, and it could be the efforts of promoting inclusion.

Now, I remember why I started learning percussion music. Again, thanks to the SYNC SINGAPORE programme (that was conducted by Jo & Sarah, and organised by VSA Singapore), I am able to make my ideas happen, and I am working very hard on them. My ultimate goal is to let Deaf know more about music, and let them be more included in music. Lastly, I hope to see more of their Deaf music where they can express themselves, whether playing, or telling stories in the form of song-signing or writing.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

Commentary: Power In Our Hands

One of the video trailers published online.

‘In Our Hands’ traces the changes and growth of the Deaf Community in the UK from the early 1900s to the present day. The documentary looks less at what it means to be deaf and instead looks more at how social groups and movements have supported the community over the decades. The documentary is comprised of a collection of interviews interspersed  with footage uncovered from the British Deaf Association (BDA) archives.

The documentary traces the development of the BDA and the Deaf community in the UK from a close but disperse set of individuals who meet occasionally for sporting events through the them becoming a very structured and politicized group in the early 2000s. It looks at how the community has flourished and their pride and sense of identity has grown of the years, as well as their struggle their journey away from reliance on hearing individuals into becoming a self-governing association.

A key change in the community is their sense of self-pride, spurred by a boost in confidence and belief in their own identity and abilities. The documentary suggests that in the early part of the century deaf individuals were often poorly educated and were often reliant on hearing ‘missionaries’ for jobs and for instructions in their day to day lives. They were reluctant to sign in public for feel of ridicule and instead their social lives revolved around local Deaf clubs and associations.  These clubs arranged sporting events around the country and it’s clear that the competitors and their communities prided themselves on achieving high levels of competence in their chosen sport. These events served as a meeting place for people to socialise, broaden their networks and provided a platform for political ideas to spread and grow.

The documentary then goes on to show how various key individuals within the BDA started to help shift the mindset of the community by helping to showcase the achievements of individuals in the workplace, providing more educational support and by encouraging people to start believing that they are worthy of such rights and opportunities. These changes started a shift away away from the community relying-upon and accepting the instructions and beliefs of the hearing community and instead a focus on inspiring deaf individuals to move into leadership positions. This happened gradually with the first step being the existing ‘missionaries’ being replaced by leaders who were Children of Deaf Adults (CoFA) into BDA leadership positions (they were considered to understand the community better than external missionaries). This then led the way for deaf leadership.

Along the way the BDA encouraged film as a key medium by which groups and individuals could document their culture and language – something not possible in written form or via photographs. The BDA also championed and supported researching into signing and were part of the discovery that it is in fact a language which they then christened British Sign Language (BSL) and have been campaigning ever since for it to be recognized as an official language. The documentary challenged the audience to think about the importance of community support and the importance of having an understanding of the communities culture and history, and that this support and teaching come from within the Deaf community rather than an external reliance on the hearing.

Something that wasn’t touched upon within the documentary was the evolution of BSL itself, however the fact that it has evolved quite significantly within the last century was very apparent from the footage itself. The earliest footage suggested a very heavy reliance on finger spelling. Perhaps this may be because other signs weren’t as established, or perhaps because individuals had signs that they used among their own friends/family but which weren’t standardized across the whole community and hence spelling was the back-up. I do not know. As the footage rolled forward in years it was notable to see the proportion of spelling vs. gesturing changes significantly suggesting both a more standardized and comprehensive language system.

The documentary is educational, inspirational and stands with integrity: there is no spoken language during the show except for some of the old footage which had an original spoken translation accompanying it. I’d certainly recommend this documentary for anyone interested in Sign Language, Deaf Culture and also to anyone who’s interested in seeing social-change in action. 

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is a volunteer with ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.