Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Through Deaf Eyes," And Through My Own

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.


Damselfly said...

Wow, that's a lot of family! Red velvet cake, yum! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

SolShine7 said...

Through Deaf Eyes was amazing! I wish this would have been made earlier. They should teach this stuff in history class.

What's cued speech?

SolShine7 said...

Oh--and nice blog!

p.s. We're name twins too. Isn't it nice to be a Karen? :)

Karen said...

Cued Speech uses hand shapes and placement to identify how words are pronounced as they are spoken. It's a visual means of accessing speech.

Karen said...

Cued Speech uses hand shapes and placement to identify how words are pronounced as they are spoken. It's a visual means of accessing speech.

Celeste said...

What is a captioned phoone and how do you go about getting one?

Karen said...


A captioned phone, or Captel, is a phone that allows you to speak directly to the other person and then read what is said via captions that are typed on a small screen on the phone.

For more info:

Johanna said...

Through Deaf Eyes was literally an eye opener for me and my husband. I knew very little about AGB's earlier history and that of Galluadet. Our son is hard of hearing and we're all learning ASL.
I've enjoyed your blog and your perspective. My husband, our daughter and I have typical hearing. We all really love learning ASL, too!

groovyoldlady said...

Last summer my hubby and I went to a music festival in Bangor, Maine. We decided to go to a blues concert - one little ole Mississippi black man in his 80's and a guitar AND an interpreter for the deaf.

The guitar playing was escellent, but it was the interpreter who REALLY entertained us. It was the blues, so once the entertainer was announced, she slouched in her chair and looked as totally depressed as it is humanly possible to be.

Then she signed the extremely simplistic lyrics with great emotion and grace. How many ways can you sign and emote, "My woman done left me. Why she wanna do me such harm?"

It was GREAT!

Karen said...

An interpreter can really make or break a concert! :)

SolShine7 said...

Hey Karen...that's for the 411 about cued speech.

I just did a post about Through Deaf Eyes on my blog. Please stop by and check it out. I mentioned your blog.

Take care!!

JazzBrown said...


I just found your site on Blog*her. Wow! Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am deaf in one ear (have been since birth) but did not realize the extent of my deafness until a few years back. You must imagine my shock at having an audiologist ask who my speech therapist was! I never had one.

I've just gotten a choc labrador to train as my hearing dog. Then, once my 1 1/2 yr old and 4 yr old are a bit older, we will all be learning ASL.

Please check out my site


Heidi said...

Nice blog, and nice to find there are others like me out there. I just started a new blog--"Through the eyes of a DEF" (Deaf Equine Fanatic). I hope you can read it and leave some comments.

You're lucky to have so many family members that are deaf or HoH. No one in my family is, and the vast majority of my friends are hearing. I have one deaf friend that I see regularly (if you consider once a year "regular"!). -Heidi