The following is a discussion of a conversation with four deaf persons held by Arkansas Association of the Deaf (A.A.D) during the Pre-Home coming game lunch. These four individuals participated in the discussion; Glenn, Phillip, Valerie, and Aletha. It was an enlightening experience and meeting the four was educative and fun. The chat exposed me to the true feeling of the hardships experienced by the deaf when they are together, as well as, when they are with other people who are not deaf. This writing aims at explaining my experiences, my feelings; the difficulties faced and what I learned.
Summary of the experience
My experience with Valerie, Glenn, Phillip, and Aletha was educative. During the conversation with all of them, I was able to discover my abilities and inabilities in regard to communicating with the deaf. However, even more important I was able to learn better ways of communicating. Regarding how I felt about the interaction frankly I was least comfortable as it became apparent that the conversation would be held hostage by my inabilities to understand sign language comprehensively. The communications were slow and at some points; the subject would suddenly get, lost leading to confusion. The biggest challenge was because of I, not being able to adjust fully to Valerie, Glenn, Phillip and Aletha’s level of communication. I learned a lot of form the interaction and I a am sure that in the future I will easily communicate with the deaf even more efficiently.
My Feeling and Comfort Level
Concerning how comfortable I was, frankly I was, least comfortable when I first met Valerie, Glenn, Phillip, and Aletha. I feared failing to reach their standards of communication and therefore was uncertain of their reaction. Unlike when talking to people about hearing capability, I found myself pausing to think what to say mostly afraid of saying it wrongly. At the beginning of the meeting, it was as if I was in a tribal meeting where my ability to communicate was extremely limited. The use of gestures for communication was new to me, as I do not use gestures. These contributed further to my poor level of comfort ability. Luckily as the meeting progressed, the four worked hard to reassure me of my performance. The result was the meeting become less tensed and more fun.
My feeling towards Valerie was that she was more aware of my inability she corrected me more than the others. However, Valerie charming smile kept me confident. She was polite and kind though I hardly understood much of what she said. These I assumed was one of the main reason when conversing with her I found it difficult to understand her. She gestured too fast though her thinking on the matter at hand was extensive. Glenn was quieter and reserved most of his speech to answering the questions. However, Phillip and Aletha participated most. Together they made me feel less invasive as they eagerly discussed topics that made me very uncomfortable. Phillip went further to assist me in understanding the others as he was more conversant with lip reading than the others were.
During the discussion, the four took their time to enlighten me on their daily experiences. These were issues I took with great concern and keenness. I found out learning sign language was as difficult as learning how to talk. In several cases, I found it hard to make out their words and signs. Aletha pointed out it was important to keep eye contact with the deaf person face since this reduces communication friction. I found myself sitting and talking within a confined space of movement to keep eye contact.
Further, into the conversation I realized that Valerie signing was a little different from the rest. She explained that, each group of deaf people in various locations had additional vocabulary to their sign language just as it is the case with the other languages. Though it, it becomes evident that apart from different sign languages being established and used. The biggest challenge for deaf people was the deaf culture that saw deaf people treated like handicapped people. On his part, Phillip affirmed that most people showed unnecessary pity as the deaf had accepted their situation. Phillip stated being deaf was similar to being fat, while many individuals saw fatness as a problem the obese person did not feel the same having gotten used to the body weight.
On my part, I was more concerned about how the four participants perceived me. These were the biggest challenge as I had to think through everything I said fearing being offensive. These were different from an ordinary conversation that rarely needs much thinking. However, the pace that was also a challenge to me went a long way to cover up my fears.
What I learned
I was able to learn several things that I am most appreciative. One of the things that Aletha pointed out was the need to get the attention of a deaf person I wanted to communicate with; these removed the blankness that came up in a speech. While people consider touching when talking inappropriate, Aletha pointed out it was accepted in the deaf community as it further made speech easier.
Secondly I learned how important it was to sit in a deaf person area of vision. Even more important when conversing with the four created a bigger challenge, than when speaking with one person. These way I learned it was possible to see all the gestures. However, even more intriguing was learning that I needed to choose a position where light was efficient and not glaring to either of those in the conversation.
Thirdly I learned how important it was to learn visual cues and gestures. Phillip pointed out that even when a person had no knowledge of the sign language it was possible to communicate. That was if the mimicking centered around actions that we are all aware of like drinking, eating, going or jumping. Even more significant it came to my attention that it was okay to use writing where gesturing was impossible. However, as Glenn pointed out it was important to ask the person I was conversing with to avoid offense.
In conclusion, the main thing I learned was that the l needed to keep learning about the deaf. Most importantly, I will have to educate myself sign language to the right standards. I am confident that the experience dealt away most of the fears that have seen me treat the deaf differently. It was evident that the biggest challenges and difficulties were because of wrong perception towards the deaf. In future, I would like to be able to converse with the deaf without as many challenges.
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