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Thank you, Carol, for the opportunity to vent a little bit in the Story Challenge this month. I decided to write about my interaction in hearing social gatherings. If you did not know, I am profoundly deaf and use American Sign Language as my primary language, and due to reasons explained on the layout, I am not a big fan of hearing group settings.
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Being the only deaf person at a hearing social event is really boring and frustrating, because nobody can sign and people would yap away. Lipreading on a one-to-one basis is hard, but possible, but the level of difficulty is compounded by the number of people present in the group. I often encounter people who mumble, people with mustaches, people with weird mouth shapes, people covering their mouths when they speak, people looking away while speaking, and the list goes on. Lipreading is a process of decoding what is already limited information, as only 30 percent of speech is actually produced on the lips, and the rest occurs inside the mouth and throat. This limits the amount of data that I have to work with, to form an idea of what the correct statement actually was. And all of this work goes on while Im continually trying to process the continual streams of data that keep coming in, even as Im still working on the previous data. In addition, people often talk over each other. By the time Ive identified who was speaking at the time, someone else says something, and I miss about half of that. And then there are the people who respond to comments made elsewhere in the room. It is truly an impossible task of exponential progressions in difficulty and diminished data.
Further, I do not have a highly comprehensible speech, unless someone is already used to my voice, and this means I cannot easily participate in a group conversation. Most hearing people do not have much patience to write back and forth or laboriously fingerspelling (or being fingerspelled to). Therefore, I end up being ignored. Sure I would be greeted with the standard basic pleasantries at first, and then the group would move on to the people theyd rather be with. If the other person knows me only on an acquaintanceship basis, I may just get a hand wave of acknowledgement, and thats it.
I try to follow along by asking for clarification or what had just been said, especially if everyone laughs uproariously. Oftentimes, I would be told, Ill tell you later, it wasnt important, its not really that funny. Well, I can tell you one thing: later NEVER comes! Later, it is I forgot what it is, it must not have been that important, or some other lame excuse.
Because of my frustration in a group setting, especially in family get togethers, I would bring a book, use my iPhone to call someone to talk with, or watch TV instead. They would label this action as being rude. Hey, isnt it rude to basically exclude a person who is supposed to be there? And sometimes I would bring a deaf person or an interpreter to chat with and have the temerity not to use my voice to chat with them, thereby depriving the hearing people from knowing what we were talking about (even though we have been sitting there among them, and no one checks to make sure we know what theyre talking about).
And yet, hearing people wonder why Deaf people prefer to be off by themselves, in their own Deaf groups? Why we prefer NOT to attend all those fun family get togethers and holiday dinners? Talk about concentration fatigue, which usually kicks in when I am forced to lipread for a very long period of time. 3-14-2017.
| Date: Tue March 14, 2017
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Registered: February 2009
Location: Potomac Falls, VA