Jen Dodds: How pushing my daughter on the swings in the park enhances Deaf visibility! (BSL)

Posted on June 24, 2015

Hello! I’d like to talk about hearing people; not family and friend-type hearing people, but hearing people who I don’t actually know.

To see Jen’s article in BSL, click play below, or scroll down for English!

Since I’ve had children, I seem to meet and spend more time with random hearing people; lots of them. I’ve learned a few things from this; here’s one example that I’d like to share…

Picture me in the playground with my kids, pushing my daughter on the swing (she’s quite bossy, so this tends to take a long time). After a while, I realise a fellow swing-pushing parent is talking to me. Our conversation might go something like this:

Me: “Oh, sorry! Were you talking to me? I’m deaf.”

Them: “Deaf?!”

Me: “Yes (THUMBS UP)…”

Them: “Oh, I’m so sorry you’re deaf.”

Me: “I’m fine, really. It’s fine being deaf! But what did you want to say to me?”

Them: “You’re deaf! Erm, your daughter, is she deaf too?”

Me: “No.”

Them: “Oh! Oh, that’s good! Jolly good!”

Me: “(POLITE PAUSE) … So, what did you want to say to me?”

Them: “Um, let me see. Did you see that thing on telly, with the, what do you call it…. cochlear implants?”

Me: “Ah, cochlear implants, yes.”

Them: “And you don’t have one?”

Me: “No. I’m deaf, I don’t need a cochlear implant. I’m fine as I am.”

Them: “… Oh! … And your daughter, do you do the sign language thing with her?”

Me: “Yes, we sign together.”

Them: “Lovely! Isn’t that lovely!”

And this happens over and over again. I understand that hearing people might not know anything about us deaf people, so we need to explain stuff to them. I know they might be shocked at meeting a deaf person unexpectedly (!)

Sometimes I’m OK with this, but sometimes I’m really not in the mood.

So, I wondered how I could change things to make things a bit more positive somehow. I decided to do a small social experiment, which I’ve been trying out recently, and it has indeed made a difference.

What I do is, when I’m pushing my daughter on the swing, I make sure we’re communicating loads, signing/chatting away the whole time. No peaceful swing pushing allowed! We have to talk the whole time!

This means that hearing people nearby can actually see that I’m deaf. I don’t have a cochlear implant or a hearing aid, so I don’t “look” deaf unless I’m signing.

It’s certainly a very different experience, because it gives them time to realise I’m deaf and think about how I’m-deaf-but-it’s-really-OK; I’m doing just fine with my kid, like whatever.

So, when they tap my shoulder by the swings, our conversation becomes like this:

Them: “Your daughter… is she deaf?”

Me: “No.”

Them: “Oh. Right. And how old is she?”

… And then we go on to have a very ordinary conversation.

So, it’s worked for me – what about you? Any similar experiences?

Jen Dodds is a Contributing Editor for The Limping Chicken. When she’s not looking after chickens or children, Jen can be found translating, proofreading and editing stuff over at Team HaDo Ltd ( On Twitter, Jen is @deafpower.

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