Would it be beneficial to all for everyone to have a basic knowledge of American Sign Language?

 

derek-thomson-559121-unsplash
Entderek-thomson-559121-unsplash.jpger a caption

According to the National Institue on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (nidcd.nih.gov), the definition of American Sign Language is as follows:

American Sign Language (ASL) is a complete, complex language that employs signs made by moving the hands combined with facial expressions and postures of the body. It is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf and is one of several communication options used by people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Okay, but can we extend the benefits of ASL beyond that definition?

The other day while lunching with a friend, we were discussing the content of my blog articles.  Both of us are bilateral cochlear implant recipients.  During the discussion, she told me that she felt I often tell the positive stories about cochlear implantation, but I don’t mention the struggles.  I appreciated her comments and perspective.

When we take our cochlear implants off, we are still deaf.  That means for at least part of the day or night, we live in the world of the deaf.  Our lives still go on during these times of silence.  Is it a good idea to have an alternate form of communication for us to rely on during these times to communicate with family or even a first responder? Is it logical to consider this would improve the quality of our lives?

Among the top three brands, Cochlear Corporation (www.cochlear.com), MED-EL (medel.com) and Advanced Bionics (www.advancedbionics.com), there is a very high success rate.  Each company offers state-of-the-art solutions for their recipients. For many, it is a life-changing solution.

Yet, there are often circumstances where some of us struggle.  For me it is in noise.  My lunch friend mentioned she often needs to face people.  For some others, it is hearing on the telephone,  or even enjoying music.  The biggest plus of a cochlear implant is hearing spoken language.  It is what connects us to the human race.   It allows us to attend performances, receive directions and vital updates on what is happening at home and around the world.  Those of us who choose to get a cochlear implant do so because we want to hear voices and sounds that alert us.

Perhaps three decades ago, many hearing-aid users were resistant to learning American Sign Language.  There was a much deeper divide between the late-deafened community and the Deaf, often referred to as the Deaf/deaf.  Today, that has changed.  More late-deafened individual are actively seeking resources and sites that will help them attain a decent competency in American Sign Language (ASL) which can be a tool in achieving successful communication strategies.

There are also benefits to everyone in our society knowing at least some basic signs.  Here are just a few:

  • Communicating with stroke victims who cannot speak
  • Babies who cannot yet speak use baby signs communicate with a parent
  • Health professionals would be able to communicate with persons who are deaf
  • Emergency personnel would recognize and respond to a person in distress who cannot speak
  • ASL would help young children to understand about differences and living in another mode in our society– and the need for inclusion
  • It would offer people a way to communicate in a “quiet” zone

There are many free online sites that have free ASL lessons and courses.  One great site I have visted is www.lifeprint.com.  There is also a wealth of information and videos on www.youtube.  If you visit Gallaudet’s ASL Connect site (www.gallaudet.edu), there is information on free introductory videos.  Gallaudet also has a summer residency program.

American Sign Language is a beautiful and expressive language.  With companies like Starbuck’s (www.starbucks) offering ASL as a mode of communication available for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing at some sites,  they are setting an example for all of us.  The message is, persons who are deaf are consumers.  We need more of this type of thinking in our society, and among Deaf/deaf advocates.

Do you think a knowledge of ASL would improve the quality of life for many Americans?

mgw

The Manual Alphabet

 

 

NIDCD-ASL-hands-2014
www.nidcd.nih.gov

 

 

 

 

 

Sooo…What’s it like to date and be deaf, gray and Italian?

In an old re-run of the Sex and the City series, Candice Bergen plays Carrie’s single boss.  She laments to Carrie that the older man in her life should be seeking women his own age, and that every time an older man seeks an younger partner, the pool gets smaller for her and other older women.  This statement represents a belief held by many older women.

I married my high school sweetheart.  A few years after being widowed, I started dating again. Wow was that ever a shock for me to see what dating was like at 56!   I can’t say there aren’t good and nice men out there.  Sometimes the chemistry just isn’t there.  But as mama says, you can’t hurry love.  I have often looked up to the sky and wondered what my husband would have thought of some of the crazy men I have dated.  I then imagine him looking back down at me shaking his head and asking, “Where did you meet that guy?”  But someday, if we meet again, I have a lot of stories to tell.

Admittedly, the first man I dated I broke up with because I simply wasn’t ready.  Not his fault.  He WAS a good guy.  It’s just some of the random experiences in between then and now that if anything have made me more aware, and yes given me a few laughs.

Take the hairstylist who always wanted to know if I was seeing someone.  Bingo! She knew a man who wore hearing aids, was my age and loved traveling all over the country in his RV, — something I would like to do someday.  There’s a lot of truth to the fact that we who have hearing aids or cochlear implants sometimes communicate differently, and it takes a special person to understand that.  But that is where the similarity between me and this man ends as I soon learned.  We arranged a meeting.

He took me to a top-rated restaurant and called ahead to ask for seating that was conducive to my hearing loss, which was far worse than his.  Nice.  Then after telling him I was trying to lose weight so I was going to watch what I ate, he ordered plate after plate of appetizers, insisting that I taste them all.  I’m sure he meant well.  But he spent the whole night lamenting about how his second wife left him, — taking most of his assets before leaving.  He never asked me anything about my life.  He just talked nonstop.

Then there was the guy who really tried to come into my world of profound hearing loss by learning sign language for those times I might need a little extra help.  That really touched my heart.  But he didn’t know how to talk to wait staff, and returned just about every meal he ordered out with statements about how poorly the food was prepared.  As the mother of a professional chef,  I didn’t digest that well, no pun intended.  Then one night, he asked me to close all the lights in my house because he “borrowed some money from some bad people” who were after him.  My home is not a stakeout!  I later learned his his ex-wife was also after him for child support payments.

By now, I had already received my first cochlear implant.  How about the guy who wanted to know if my hearing would get worse?  I told him I did not come with a warranty.  Besides, he had a life-threatening illness.  What if I asked him about that?  Wouldn’t it be rude? Truth is, my hearing DID get worse.  I now wear two cochlear implants.  So what?

Now this really gets good, or bad might be a better word.  I met this guy who was widowed like me.  Had two kids.  Brought me flowers. Not one dozen, but two dozen on the first date.  Took me to the top of the Rock and on a dinner cruise around Manhattan in the same day.  Took me on a helicopter ride around Manhattan another day and to see the Rockettes perform the Christmas show.  We ate in the best of restaurants and had a lot of fun together.  And then he planned a picnic upstate because I mentioned loving to photograph cows.  But he got into foul moods sometimes without explanation.  He was a no-show for New Year’s eve, and he told me he punched the TV when he found out the diagnosis of his new dog was “deaf.”  I said, “The dog is dead?,” when he called me on the phone.  He said no, “THE DOG IS DEAF!”  So now he had a deaf dog and and a deaf girlfriend.  So his behavior prompted me to do a Google search on him.  It turned out he had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, and he had an arrest for driving down the street the wrong way in another state under the influence.  He didn’t drink or show evidence of drugs when he was with me, except the moods.  But I attributed it to the grief that comes when we have lost a spouse.  When I read about his abuse and knew how I trusted him, my whole body shook.  I had to sit down and process it.  Although he was of Russian/Jewish heritage, he put down on the record I found on Google that he was Cambodian.  He must have been flying high!

Then there was the profoundly religious man 10 years my junior who loved my silver tresses.  He would call me on the phone at night when he got out of work and talk to me, — for four hours on average.  We talked about life.  About God.  He quoted Biblical passages.  He even told me after his marriage failed he was considering converting to Episcopalian to become a priest.   He opened doors, paid for everything, and I even invited him to meet my children on Christmas eve.  Then he started acting weird.  So, once again this prompted me to do a Google search on him, which I should have done in the first place.  Trust is earned.  Well, not only did he already have another girlfriend when he met me, but she created a blog warning other women to stay away from him.  This woman never knew I existed, but if I ever met her I would have thanked her for not letting me get into this any deeper.

Some of the funniest experiences I have had have been through online dating.  Men lie about their age.  When you meet them in person, they don’t look anything like their picture.  I never went out with anyone who didn’t post a picture.  Show your face if you have nothing to hide.  Then there is the type who has no picture, no profile information but just messages you with a phone number.  Huh?  What is there to love about someone who won’t be transparent?  Then there is the type that posts a profile like it is a resume listing all their accomplishments since the Beatles came to town, letting us know they were at Woodstock and that everyone thinks they are really perhaps 35 or 40. Right!

At the end of my work life, I was an adjunct professor of English.  I taught writing and research courses, and I found myself mentally marking up online profiles with that little red pen in my head.  If you are going to lie, use spellcheck!

Here are some examples:

“I went to collage.”

“I am a docter.”

“I like feminine woman who wear colon.”

Then there is the actual meeting.  One guy I was suppose to meet at Panera Bread for coffee, suddenly stepped out from a hidden doorway when he saw me.  Was he going to slip away if he didn’t like what he saw.

As far as ethnicity is concerned, the beauty of this age is that we are not out to impress anyone or satisfy their limitations.  We date whomever we wish to date, and many of us care more about mutual values than background.  Diversity can only enrich our experience.  To each his own, but a dedicated, loving partner trumps differences.

I have since given up on online dating, although I know some who have had good experiences.  But I haven’t given up on love.  They say you will meet someone when you least expect it.  It’s always nice to have a partner.  That is the highest compliment you can pay your partner who has passed because it means they gave you a wonderful example of what love SHOULD be.

In the meantime, someday if my husband and I do meet again in the hereafter, I have some funny stories to tell him.