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

Posted on June 24, 2015

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Jen Dodds

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 (teamhado.com). On Twitter, Jen is @deafpower.

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