Rolling Without Limits

Your mobility may be limited. Your voice, boundless.

Who is the Handicapped One?
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Who is the Handicapped One?

There are many people who take their abilities to communicate for granted. How many of us have learned to speak naturally, without effort? Of course, mute people have had it difficult, but they have half communication skills naturally – they can still hear what others tell them. The difficulties lie, however, when your ability to hear and speak are both compromised by the loss of your hearing. But, if you tell a Deaf person that they are handicapped, watch and learn: you might not get the reply you expect.

Ask any Deaf person if they would rather be Deaf or blind, and depending on their situation, most will tell you that they are happy to be Deaf because their ‘handicap’ is limited to those who don’t understand what deafness is all about. Yes, it is another world altogether; after all, they have their own language. Those who have learned about this community will tell you that they are shocked to find out that several don’t even consider themselves handicapped – that this term only brings them more money on their income tax, and has no other use in their lives. Of course, this depends on who you ask, as there are some who will claim that losing your hearing is the worst fate possible, but once they learn the magic of speaking with their hands, their opinion changes.

You may have already noticed that I capitalize the word ‘Deaf’. This was their own idea; they include themselves as a cultural minority, based on a language, and therefore need to capitalize the adjective just like we would capitalize English or French. Let me explain: sign language is their language. Unlike Braille, it is far more than just a code, as most would believe. Linguists and anthropologists agree that a sub-culture sprouted from the language use amongst them, since they gather often to spend time together, just like many immigrants do in their new country, although it happens far more often in the Deaf World. They, unlike most other minorities, do not share their cultural identity with their parents, giving them the desire to be with others like themselves. Some have even gone as far as claiming that their first family is their Deaf counterparts and their true biological family comes second. All this is due to a wall of contact – the lack of communication that comes from most people not having even the slightest interest in learning sign language, even for their own children. Sad, but true.

There are some deaf people who do not count their handicap as a cultural identity; these are more often called ‘hearing-impaired’ since they use hearing aids and have learned to speak, and most do not know sign language. They are sometimes shunned from the Deaf community as well because they often refuse to learn sign language, having learnt since childhood that it is wrong and not of interest, or would be a sign of weakness – they were told that those who cannot speak, learn to sign. Although this mentality is slowly changing, the discrimination is still far too elevated to be considered ‘under control’ and Deaf rights are still severely lacking.

When you ask a Deaf person if they consider themselves ‘handicapped’, they will say: “Put yourself in a group of Deaf people who only use sign language. Who is the handicapped one then?”

 

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  1. Lil Nana
    Lil Nana
    Awesome blog! I'm out of votes today but I plan on sending one your way tomorrow!
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    1. Lil Nana
      Lil Nana
      #7
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      1. SignLanguage
        Cheers!
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  2. Daniel Andrei Garcia
    Daniel Andrei Garcia
    Voted: And I quote from you: "Yes, it is another world altogether; after all, they have their own language. Those who have learned about this community will tell you that they are shocked to find out that several don’t even consider themselves handicapped" Indeed, it is a specialized grouping quite apart from others. From what I know, their other senses are also heightened. :)
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    1. SignLanguage
      Some are, but it's mostly just developping them in a way that we usually don't. We could have the same type of senses as them if we took the time to work on it, too.
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  3. Broken English
    Broken English
    Vote no 4. A really fascinating and well-written blog Annie! Just out of interest, what made you decide to learn sign language?
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    1. SignLanguage
      A Deeaf high school friend I met who later became the one who introduced me to the Deaf community as well. I learned very little signs from her as she was just starting learning as well at that time, so I took classes and she helped me with my lessons at times.
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  4. pftsusan
    pftsusan
    #5. You made a very good point here. Great blog. Of the hearing impaired and the Deaf people that I met, most are happy that they don't have to hear anything negative said to anyone and they have a spirit in what they feel. I met a deaf musician who tunes and plays his electric guitars and he's right on (without the help of any tuners)! When I asked him how he did it. He told me that he feels the music, rhythm and all. I find the community to be very open minded and free minded. I agree.
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    1. SignLanguage
      I've met a Deaf woman who plays the flute. Of all things! A thin, high pitched sound!
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      1. Broken English
        Broken English
        There is quite a famous British percussionist called Evelyn Glennie who is profoundly deaf, don't know if you have heard of her (no pun intended!!) Deaf people can still feel the vibrations of the sounds, although they can't hear them, which is why they are able to be musicians. It must be very strange not to be able to hear your own music though! I find that with sounds as well though; I often feel the vibration of a noise, before I actually hear it! I have extremely acute hearing, and in fact I am hypersensitive generally. Bit of a curse, really!!
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        1. SignLanguage
          Would you believe that Deaf people use the expression 'Have you ever heard of ... ?' I thought it was funny the first time I saw my teacher use it. Drums don't surprise me at all. Quite the contrary, since drums and tam-tams (African hand-drums) are the most common instruments used by them. They don't feel the flute, though. That's why it surprised me that my friend plays it. She also wanted to learn tap dancing, and I had no idea how to teach her that and said no. I apologized and told her that even hearing people find it extremely difficult to understand. Very few have the talent to tap dance.
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  5. Lori Emmons
    Lori Emmons
    #6 I certainly would be more handicapped in a deaf community. I've always wanted to learn sign language but now I think I would only confuse people because of the terrible tremors in my hands. I used to wait tables and would feel terrible when I couldn't communicate with a deaf or mute customer. I guess that's another lesson in not putting off till tomorrow what you could or should do today. Great article. Write On! Lori
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    1. SignLanguage
      You'd be surprised. Some Deaf people have terrible handicaps and people still understand them. Have you read my post 'Deafies in a Wheelchair'? Even though I had a hard time understanding the woman I was speaking with, I'm sure I would've managed to decipher her signs with time.
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