Friday, October 1, 2010
As I was sitting at Denny’s on a calm Sunday morning with three of my close Deaf friends, our waitress came to our table to take our order. In the midst of our conversation, it was apparent that the waitress saw us having a signed conversation and completely froze at the fact that there were four of those “deaf-mute people” sitting at her table. She stood at the end of the table, with a huge fake smile on her face, masking her nerves. The four of us then gave her a look of acknowledgement and the series of unfortunate events began. “H I! WE L C O M E T O D E N N Y S!” the waitress said with her over-verbalization and gaudy yelps. I then, with the quickness, put a stop to the embarrassment that the waitress had caused us. I had informed her that I was hearing and there was absolutely no need for the shouting, and even if, hypothetically speaking, I were Deaf too, we still would not be able hear her. The definition of Deafness is damage to the inner or middle ear that causes profound hearing loss, then why do hearing people continue to shout when speaking with Deaf people? Unfortunately, most hearing people do not know how to handle situations such as these. If hearing people can become a bit more educated on Deafness, then awkward moments, such as my horrific Denny’s encounter, would not occur. You might be wondering, what would have been the correct way of handling that situation. Well, the waitress could have approached the table (like a regular person), spoke normally (none of that yelling), and then I would have interpreted for my friends and everything would have gone smoothly. Suppose the four of us were Deaf, then we would have had our orders already written on a piece of paper. Deaf people know the situation’s they are getting themselves into. Chances are, if they are dealing with hearing people, a pen and paper are ready.
In 2008, a thread was posted by Robin W where she gave five tips on how to communicate with Deaf people correctly; number three is another very important rule. When a hearing person is dealing with a Deaf person and their interpreter, they tend to speak directly to the interpreter and completely void the fact that the interpreter is there just to render the message. The correct way to go about this is to speak to the Deaf person directly and the interpreter will get the point across. I have experienced this many times myself, I am interpreting and the hearing person begins to speak to me as if I’m there for the appointment or whatever the scenario may be. I sometimes have to play the role of an advocate for Deaf people and correct the hearing person and say “I’m sorry sir/ma’am; speak to the Deaf person, not me”. If I don’t do it, then who will?
So, as tip number five states, when communicating with a Deaf person relax!!! The Deaf person will not bite. The beauty of language is that it comes in many forms. If you do not know any sign language and the Deaf person does not read lips, then write!