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.