People are starting to emerge from the woodwork at my interpreted meetings. First they tell me how beautiful the motions by the interpreters are, how ASL is like dancing hands. I smile and say, “Yes, but it is also a language I speak.” Over time more and more people come up to me.
Last night a woman said all the things about the beauty of the language (and it is beautiful), and then she told me about her hearing loss. And how she forgot her hearing aid. And if only she understood my terps. So I gave her my card and told her to get in touch with me over my cell phone and we’d get together and I’d teach her the basics and introduce her to Ron, who teaches 12 weeks for $50 and how good he is, how we could visit with my friend, Emily, who studied to be an interpreter and who wants to do only 12 step groups, and how to find free sources to learn and socialize using sign. Then I mentioned how I have a terped ACoA meeting – she’s going to come to learn the language – and the terped open AA meeting on Friday right next door to where we were last night. I think she’s going to be my “new best friend” for awhile. 🙂
I swear that the more times people are exposed to terps and the HoH and deaf the more interested they are. At first it was an oddity – when I missed one week because I was in an ASL immersion program everyone in the Al-Anon group missed me and the terps. One fellow wondered why I could speak so well and I explained to him I have some residual hearing and I “voice” well because I could hear fully until I was 18 months old, how I read lips and use what sound I can gather to understand one-on-one conversations and how sometimes in groups like our Al-Anon group some voices are too soft and people are too far away for me to lip read. We chatted a bit about how critical it was to NEVER hit a child in the head and how I was the poster child for what could happen as a result of a head injury. He thanked me for sharing that information with him.
I now speak regularly to folks with hearing loss, tinnitus, Meniere’s syndrome, all sorts of things. They’re coming out of the woodwork where it is safe to do so. Apparently, I am making it safe for others to speak up. I’m thrilled about that. So many of the HoH suffer in silence, literally in silence and isolation.
It makes even more of a point of something I once said (and got blowback on by another poster) on CrimeDime. It is my opinion that we would be well advised to teach either ASL or Signed Exact English from grade school on – every day in one class or the other. Why? Because as we age – and now even as we grow up – we lose hearing. So many people have hearing problems these days – we live in a noisy world and even kids have hearing loss from headphones. So why not have a tradition of both a spoken language and a signed language. Granted, if you’ve no arms or hands that would be tough, but that is an exception to the rule. If one is blind there is tactile sign language.
If everyone had a basic knowledge of sign we’d see people signing in noisy environments and across distances where you’d rather not shout. If everyone had a basic knowledge of sign we’d see less concern about the problems of wearing hearing aids and a knowledge that any of us could need augmentation at any time. Sign is not a replacement for being able to hear the car that is about to hit you, the lovely sounds of a choir or the cry of a child in danger. Sign language expands our world. Frankly, most of us will never speak French or German (regularly taught in schools across America) but we would actually use ASL or SEE if we were taught it.
And last night I was so happy to see the terps. I’d gone through a court hearing that day with no terps or CART and though I did okay, seeing the terps last night I just wanted to run up and hug both of them because it was a relief to see someone I could understand and not have to panic that I’m missing something. They both reminded me they are not legal terps (which I know), but I missed having a terp soooo bad in court. Yes, I functioned, but I might have flown higher and done better with a terp. They are, each and every one of them, precious people to me. Next time I swear I will bring them cold drinks and cupcakes or something to let them know how much I value them.