I recently came across a blog post enumerating the Pros and Cons of Being Hard of Hearing. It was an interesting read so I posted it on my Facebook wall. A late-deafened Facebook friend and a professional photojournalist Raphael Torralba took notice of that link and re-posted it in a prominent Yahoo group for Persons With Disabilities in the Philippines. As far as I can remember, he is still struggling with his signing skills.
A few comments and sentiments were given in response to his post. Some even connected this with difficulty in employment among deaf people, heavily dependent on sign language interpreters, a great scarcity of competent interpreters, and the need for the deaf to develop lipreading skills in order to “cope up” with the hearing world. One commenter even challenged the Filipino Deaf community to “speak up” and “think of innovative ways to cope up with their disability”.
They are all true. That’s the reality. But then again, a more underlying question must be asked. If a person became deaf at a later age, should he stick with the hearing world, or go the Deaf way?
At MCCID, we have a new student who is late-deafened. She was already in her third-year college when her hearing suddenly deteriorated which according to her mom, has no idea how it came about. Since she is new to signing, she can only talk. So it’s hard to communicate with her even with her family. She can’t sign but she can’t hear my voice either. She can talk but she can’t lipread very well. So she is neither here nor there.
She became deaf only about a couple of years ago. But she has a very strong will and determination to succeed. Her favorite book is the “Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. She has been with the deaf world only since June and she is adjusting slowly. Everybody surrounding her (her deaf classmates) are doing their best to communicate with her. It is I who is having a tremendous effort to go through with her. I am always at quandary whether to sign or to talk. I am used to signing with my mouth closed in order to focus more on the essence of my thoughts. But since she is still grasping for signs, I have to mouth every word. Shouting is of no use since she’s profoundly deaf. This is very frustrating both for me and her.
So I encouraged her to improve her signing skills and at the same time rely on gestures or manual movement for her to understand the instructions (which is the real purpose of sign language). Every time she wants to say something to me, she talks. But I refrained her from doing that. Instead, I encouraged her to practice her signing so that she can easily understand us. I believe that she must embrace who she is now. She is a deaf person. She must live with this predicament and find a way to survive with it.
I did not ask her to completely forget about speaking. MCCID hired her to do part-time office work. Since our School Registrar and President only knows a few signs and relies heavily on speech, then she must talk to them. This proves to be a win-win situation for her.
Am I doing the right thing? That I can’t answer right now. She is still a work in progress. But only time will tell. 🙂
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