DARE TO ASK: If those who could hear would listen
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why do hearing people treat us deafies like we are not fit for their society?
They act like they want nothing to do with us. They get aggravated with us. Or
they attempt to talk louder, slower and with wider mouth movement. What gives?
Kimberly, 48, deaf, Jacksonville
How are we supposed to talk to you if you can't hear, and we don't know sign
language? It's true a lot of it has to do with ignorance, but many people don't
do it to offend - we just haven't been taught the proper way to speak to a deaf
Reign, 19, female, Illinois
Talking louder, slower or with wider mouth movements is not an act of
contempt. It's an attempt to connect with you. Hearing people . . . are doing
the best they can think of, even though on the receiving end it is a pain. If
you are feeling up to it, you can educate the hearing person on how you would
prefer to be communicated with.
Laurie B., Boston
If it makes you feel any better, these jerks most likely behave the same way
toward people who don't speak English.
A., 39, Missouri
Hearing-impaired comedian Kathy Buckley said something funny to us. It had to
do with the gentle passing of the wind.
"I can't hear anything at high frequency, like birds. But if you [the part
that had to do with the wind], I'm right on it."
Now, back from our break.
To Buckley, an inspirational speaker and author of If You Could Hear What I
See, it's not about treating deaf people poorly, it's about people being anxious
"I do it myself: Say a person is speaking Japanese and I need to talk with
them - I'll automatically raise my voice, because I'm having a discomfort with
communication. There's a frustration when we can't communicate. A lot of people
will avoid it because they are not comfortable or patient."
Deaf people ought to let hearing people know what they need, though, she
"Write it, sign it, mime it, sing it, dance it, whatever it is," she said.
"You're only treated the way you treat people. You can't be angry at people's
ignorance. If you're not willing to take time to teach, you are just as ignorant
as them. No one is here to kiss anybody's butt."
Still, it wouldn't hurt for hearing people to learn more about what it's like
to be deaf.
"What I hate is if I'm with you and someone says something to you and you
laugh, and I say, 'What did they say?' and you say, 'Oh, I'll tell you later.'
Well, I know I'll never hear it, so I just got cut out of the loop."
And hearing people, LISTEN UP: Have you seen how you look lately?
"We [deaf people] really see facial expressions. People don't realize how
intense they look," Buckley said. "So put a nice look on. It's common courtesy."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to phillip. firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his