Yesterday was one of those crazy days. My parents and sister came in from Michigan and my cousins came in from Maryland and Missouri. My brother and his family joined us for dinner. All of us are deaf or hard of hearing with the exception of a few. We had a great dinner of my mom's famous lasagna and Red Velvet cake aferwards.
After dinner, a friend of mine and another guy installed a new videophone system in my office. I am starting a new job and wanted to make sure that I had several videophone options to rely on. If you're not familiar with a videophone--it is a webcam that is hooked up to a tv or monitor and an interpreter shows up on the display. I use a phone to talk directly to the person I'm calling (or who is calling me) and the interpreter interprets/signs what is being said. The conversation is almost seamless for me with very little lag time.
When 9:15 p.m. rolled around, I suddenly realized that the PBS Special, "Through Deaf Eyes" had already started. My mom and one of my cousins joined me in watching the show. It was definitely an "eye opener" for them.
While watching the documentary, I found myself taking a few trips back in time. When I graduated from college (just yesterday, ahem!), I started a deaf senior citizens group and often spent time with older deaf persons who shared what their life was like while growing up. They shared stories of traveling great distances to see their friends, only to find out that no one was home. An older woman shared the same thing on the PBS show. When they showed the early TTYs,(early phones for deaf people), which were big Western Union teletype machines, I thought back to the calls I made on the last few teletype machines that were still working less than twenty years ago. Today, my TTY machine is collecting dust on my kitchen counter. I now use a captioned phone and video phone to make my phone calls.
The documentary also featured the National Theatre of the Deaf and that took me back to my college years when I attended a show for the first time. I knew very little sign language back then and could not understand any of the theatrical American Sign Language that was flying across the stage. I remember leaving that play feeling quite lost and empty-- I was still dealing with becoming profoundly deaf and learning a new language. The same thing happened when a band called "Foxfire" performed-- I couldn't follow any of the music or the signing. I've since learned that for me to enjoy any musicals or plays with ASL, I have to turn off my hearing aid and immerse myself in the ASL. Otherwise, if I attend a concert, I obtain an interpreter who can interpret with an emphasis on English so I can match the sounds going in my ear.
I was happy to see the variety of communication modes on the show because there's truly a diverse population of deaf and hard of hearing persons. I was surprised however, not to see an interview with an adult or family using Cued Speech as several of the families that I know use this method of communication.
My cousin is heading home today and plans to enroll in an ASL class. I look forward to teaching her all the naughty words in sign.