It’s time to end the cycle of poor deaf awareness | The Friday Article

Deaf culture has been shrouded in mystery in a way which has stripped the community of its natural beauty. The hearing world’s fascination with British Sign Language has reduced a heavily visual and emotive language into a form of entertainment – which can be used in music videos by successful singer-songwriters, or as a secret code to insult friends. The deaf community hasn’t fully opened its doors, and now hearing people long for the truth.

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Photo: Darelle on Pixabay (Public Domain).

Poor deaf awareness is a self-fulfilling prophecy. In a society which is constantly shifting towards more textual forms of communication, our ability to hold a simple conversation is dwindling as we are forced to venture away from the comfort zone of Facebook, Twitter or iMessage. The opportunity to learn another language in today’s society is always something most people are reluctant to commit to, and for the deaf community, that is the problem.

At the heart of deaf culture is British Sign Language. It’s the community’s gatekeeper, determining who is worthy of accessing such an exclusive and mysterious subculture which – to hearing people – would open their eyes to some of the many struggles deaf individuals face as part of their everyday lives. However, this sense of enlightenment is only available to hearing people who know or learn sign language, or can afford the hefty price tag of a British Sign Language qualification. The deaf community needs to lower its guard, and the hearing community needs to value communication in its most truest form: face-to-face conversation.

The hearing world must stop looking at deaf culture through documentaries which only separate themselves from engaging with deaf culture directly. The self-fulfilling prophecy of poor deaf awareness has forced hearing people to watch and learn – to observe – through media portrayals of the deaf community. Only now are these representations taking a more positive or neutral stance, but there’s still a way to go. Much like how watching travel programmes can provide us with a misunderstanding of another country’s culture, our refusal to explore a culture first-hand has given birth to poor deaf awareness, misconceptions and stereotypes. It has led hearing people to wonder how they can actually communicate with a deaf person, and rather than pursue the answer to this question, they shy away, and watch from afar.

The need for hearing people to actually approach members of the Deaf culture and get to know them has always been stressed by the deaf community. Numerous videos and articles have highlighted how welcoming deaf people can be, and how keen they are to have a conversation with pretty much anyone. The intrigue hearing people have for learning more about the deaf community is there, but the fear of an awkward introduction has mostly likely scared the majority of them.

Text messaging is continuing to grow in our society and is something which unites both the hearing and deaf worlds thanks to it being a universal way of communicating. It’s a language both communities can speak and it needs to be harnessed because of that.

After all, it’s through talking to people and experiencing new cultures first-hand that stereotypes are challenged, misconceptions are debunked and relationships are built. It’s time for the deaf community to lower the drawbridge, and for hearing people to make the first move by saying hello. It starts now.

Liam

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8 thoughts on “It’s time to end the cycle of poor deaf awareness | The Friday Article

    • Yes, deaf awareness is something both the deaf and hearing communities haven’t talked about lately – hopefully both parties will do soon.

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. Thanks for commenting and following!

      Like

  1. You ended your thought provoking post with “It starts now”.

    I think it has started now with Dans Le Noir, a dining and tasting experience based in Farringdon, London where customers are asked to leave mobiles in lockers before entering a darkened room where they are served a surprise menu by blind waiters. It is a sensory experience where the customer struggle to enhance their auditory and taste senses without relying on the ocular senses.

    Every Friday nights, upstairs, at the same venue, the Otra Vista Social Club is a silent disco where the customer is supplied with headphone to follow the DJ music while surrounded by deaf clubbers, signing away. The deaf can enter the club free of charge and the bar is deaf staffed, so all customers must learn some basic sign language, very opposite from the restaurant, now to enhance both ocular and touch senses.

    I’ve not been there yet as it has been going for a month now, why don’t you check it out to see if it is a real integration of deaf and hearing or do they exist together in a parallel universe?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, very interesting. Yes, I must have a look. I think ‘it starts now’ also refers to the need for both deaf and hearing people to not shy away from talking to one another and challenging misconceptions.

      This venue may well do this, but if hearing people must know basic sign language – given how expensive and how few people know BSL – then that is a barrier.

      BSL can be a free language to learn, and that’s through sign clubs and just talking to people – it’s certainly helped me. That needs to start now.

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  2. Great post, very informative. I actually remember being taught sign language at school as an optional thing as we had a few deaf students in our year and by teaching us it helped us to communicate with them which was nice, I wonder if they still do that in schools!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, I’m glad you liked it. Oh, really? That is great! I was taught some BSL in an after-school club, but not as an official lesson. However, a lot of deaf people are pushing for BSL lessons to be part of the national curriculum and taught as a GCSE.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Like

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