ASL students share about life in the deaf culture

Students with hearing loss at BYU-Idaho would like to make a change to some of the preconceived notions that the majority of the university has about them.

For every 1,000 students in school, there are 30 with hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America.

“What I want others to know is to not be scared of deaf people,” said Kayla McLeod, a senior studying health science. “We are still normal people, just a different culture and a different language, but still people.”

She said she has been in situations where she felt like people were afraid of her.

She said the moment most strangers find out she is deaf, they apologize quickly and run away.

“My advice would be to act normal around deaf people,” said Joseph Quiner, an American Sign Language interpreter and a sophomore studying English. “When you act strange, they will feel strange. They can sense that from your body language.”

He said there are other ways people can communicate with them, such as pulling out a phone and texting them, or using a pen and paper.

McLeod said the way she communicates with those who do not know American Sign Language is through texting or writing their questions or comments down.

“The thing is they grew up in a hearing world,” Quiner said. “They know what it is like and how to act and involve themselves. My experience is people assume that deaf people don’t want to be involved with conversation, dances, activities etc. People assume that they can’t go on a date with the deaf person because they can’t communicate.”

Angelina Frisan, a senior majoring in marriage and family studies, said that people with hearing loss still like to go out and have fun with other people.

“Deaf people normally do what everyone else does,” she said.

Many people with hearing loss in the United States communicate by using ASL, a complete language that involves signs made by moving the hands combined with facial expressions and postures of the body, according to National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

“The most awkward situation I have been in is when others come and sign to me a question, then I’ll answer them, then they will just stare and not say anything,” McLeod said.

Frisan said there have been times where she would ask the person to repeat what they said or speak a little louder, and the person would roll their eyes or move their lips obviously huge and talk extremely loud.

“I’m deaf, not dumb,” Frisan said. “My advice would be to just do what the deaf person asked you to do.”

People who have hearing loss can range from mild to moderate hearing loss, as in partly deaf, according to the National Association of the Deaf.

Those who have hearing loss rely mostly on lip reading to help them communicate. Lip reading includes watching the movement of the speaker’s lips as well as their facial gestures to understand what they are communicating, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America.

“It is rude when others talk with their hands over their mouths,” Frisan said.

She said she considers it rude because the person who is speaking is not being considerate to the fact that the person with hearing loss has to work harder to understand what is being said to them.

Frisan said she can hear for the most part, but still needs to rely on lip reading to help confirm what she thinks the person is saying.

“When I am interpreting, I’ve noticed it is really rude to be looking at me instead of looking at the deaf person,” Quinter said.

He said that it is common for people without hearing loss to cover their mouths because most have not lived in the deaf culture.

Frisan said there are common things that happen occasionally that others do to her that are rude, but she does not take it personally because she understands that most do not know a lot about the deaf culture.

“Some questions that are asked a lot that are common are, ‘Can you read braille?’ ‘Can you drive?’ ‘Can you actually date?’ I’m not blind. I just can’t hear or talk,” McLeod said.

She said the deaf culture is really nice, and it is willing to work with you as long you are trying.

“Many times, people will tell me that they don’t know many signs so they are scared to try to talk to me,” Frisan said. “But the thing is we are so happy that you know some signs that we are willing to work with you.”

She said since the deaf culture is so friendly, they would not criticize or be mad at anyone for not having a lot of experiences with sign language. She said they are a happy and loving culture.

“Don’t apologize for your bad signing,” said Quinter. “I personally hate it because I don’t care, and I’m happy with the fact that you are trying.”

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