Deirdre Maguire: Deaf awareness is for Deaf people too!

Posted on June 17, 2017

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At weekends, we post some of the most popular articles from our archive, which you might have missed first time round. 

I started this week with a joke on my Facebook post –

A friend pointed out maybe I should share some of my own tips for Deaf Awareness. At first I thought it was pointless as like I just said, 95% of people on my Facebook are Deaf/or involved in the Deaf community.

The more I thought about it, the more I started to think about Deaf people themselves and how we could do with improving our own Deaf awareness.

These tips are based on my own experiences- maybe some you’ll agree with some of them!

1. We all know when a hearing person say to us, ‘it doesn’t matter’ or ‘I’ll tell you later’ it can make our blood boil. But I turn into a raging Hulk when a Deafie tells me that ‘it doesn’t matter’ or ‘I’ll tell you later’. It does feel like being discriminated by a hearing person all over again by someone who should know better.

2. Good lighting! SO often I have to ask a Deafie to move away from the window/light that creates a halo effect- you look positively angelic but it is so hard to watch your signing. SO it’s not just the hearing people who need to think about what is behind them! This applies to videos too; I like seeing your beautiful face along with your hands.

3. The ability to sign across the room- not all Deafies can see the signing from a distance especially when you’re extremely short sighted like me!

4. Often when meeting Deafies, we often don’t think about where we are standing or sitting, the amounts of time I’ve had to ask someone to move because they have leaned in front of me blocking the other people I’m signing to!

5. When I am signing, Deafies will tell me that I am using the wrong sign and that their sign is right- they often forget that there are so many regional varieties of BSL. I grew up using the Glasgow regional signs and when I went to boarding school, I was often told I was wrong and to stop making up signs. Even now when I use my regional signs- I get told I’m wrong and to sign properly!

6. Receptive skills – Just like accents, it can take me a while to adapt to the other person’s signing, this does not mean I do not understand BSL. It does require a bit of time to pick up on people’s signing styles, some people sign so fast it can take me a few seconds to catch on, some don’t use lip patterns or facial expressions so I need to work out if they are being funny or not!

7. Deaf families- I often get a lot of Deafies telling me how lucky I am to be from a Deaf family (I know I am lucky to have an awesome family), which mean I get 100% access to what we are talking about (football mainly!) that they think we don’t struggle with family communication.

WRONG! We do misunderstand each other just like everyone else!

I also come from a huge extended family where they all are hearing and do not use sign language. Family gatherings are so boring and we often feel quite isolated not understanding what’s being said.

8. Personal preferences- Video chat is an amazing tool for the Deaf community BUT not all Deafies like using video chat such as Skype, Facetime, oovoo etc. I find it really impersonal and the limited signing space annoys me especially when people hold their phone and sign with one hand! Put the phone down and use both your hands!

9. Habits- this is a very bad habit that the Deaf community has, signing to people with one hand when holding something that could easily be put aside such as a mobile phone, a pen and use BSL the way it should be… with BOTH hands! (This clearly DOES NOT apply to social situations like the pub, we need to be able to hold our drinks! But when you are having a meeting, a chat with a friend etc.)

10. Other Deafies- We generally need to be more aware of the different types of Deafies in our community, we all are different in our own way bound by a beautiful language, but we do need to remember other Deafies who need to be more included such as these who prefer to speak, have limited vision, different mobility needs etc.

11. Getting attention- I grew up in a Deaf family and in the community where visual cues are so important for collecting information or getting one’s attention but sometime like hearing people with background noises, I tune out the visual background. How many times have you seen someone wave their hands and you think it’s for you but they are just scratching their nose?! I’ve been accused of being rude due to ignoring people when they want my attention best way to ensure my attention- tap my shoulder or stand in front of me doing a dance move- that should do it!

Bet that some of you are thinking ‘what about you?!’

I hold my hands up and admit that I’ve been guilty of doing all I’ve listed!

I’m not perfect but neither are you!

Remember- Deaf Awareness isn’t just for a week or for people with no knowledge of Deafness!

Deirdre says she is “A loud outspoken geek who like books and anything geeky, especially Doctor Who, and the favourite kid in her large nutty family where two sign languages are used. ” Follow her on Twitter as @bookygeeky.

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