6 Important Things That You Might Not Know About ASL And Deaf Culture

6 Important Things That You Might Not Know About ASL And Deaf Culture

Look past all the things you think you know, and learn what Deaf culture really means.
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I grew up adoring my aunt, who stayed with my family many weekends, and eventually moved in with us a few years ago. She's deaf, but also cognitively delayed, meaning she'll permanently function at the level of an elementary or middle-schooler. Because of her cognitive delays, my aunt didn't have the typical "deaf upbringing" she might have had. She's never really been a part of Deaf culture. Of course, she has some things in common with other deaf adults - she prefers physical affection, loves seeing friends and hates saying goodbye to them and chooses movies with physical action or humor.

But as someone who interacted on a daily basis with a deaf woman and spoke conversational sign language, I knew very little about Deaf culture when I went to college. Last year, I took a Deaf culture class that taught me so much about the lives of deaf Americans, signed languages, customs and cultural expectations. I realized then how much most hearing people don't know or incorrectly assume about deaf people.

1. There are only two countries that use predominantly ASL.


The United States and Canada are the only two countries who primarily use American Sign Language. French Sign Language was the basis for ASL and the two still share plenty of similarities, though they also differ in plenty of ways. However, according to The Ethnologue, there are around 130 recognized Deaf sign languages in the world, though there are also other undocumented sign languages out there too. Long story short, deaf people can't just go to any country and automatically communicate with other deaf people. Sign languages aren't universal. There is an International Sign Language, but it's not widely used outside of worldwide meetings, such as the World Federation of the Deaf Conference.


2. Deaf people are typically better drivers.

Plenty of people assume that those who can't hear also can't drive. The opposite is true. Statistics have proven that most deaf drivers are equal to or better than hearing drivers. This could potentially be because noise distractions don't exist for them or because they rely so much more on visual signals, which is what driving is primarily based on. While deaf drivers are proven to be perfectly competent, there are a number of other countries around the world that don't allow their deaf citizens to drive.


3. Deaf culture has its own films, "music," dance, poetry, literature and folklore.

Like any country, community or cultural group, Deaf culture has its own forms of art and entertainment. For example, deaf poetry is a 3-D art form (performed both in video and at live events), using hand shapes, hand locations, body movements and facial expressions to tell a poetic story. There are also a multitude of books written by deaf adults, films with entirely deaf actors and videos that blend sign language with things like music or dance.


4. "CODAs" are a go-between for two separate cultures.

CODA is an acronym for Children of Deaf Adults, meaning a hearing child born to one or more deaf parents. It's actually quite common for deaf people to give birth to hearing children, as deafness is not typically genetic. CODAs have the opportunity to live between Deaf culture and hearing culture, which can be both a blessing and a curse. They usually have the benefit of being fully bilingual, but can also struggle with learning to verbalize words at a young age, and in many cases need speech therapy when entering school. They also often take on the role of their parent's interpreter from a young age, which can teach skills, but also can be too much responsibility and information for a child to be exposed to. There is a fascinating piece here, written by a CODA about some of his experiences.


5. Name signs are usually personal and treasured.

My own experience with name signs is different from the more typical Deaf culture name sign experience. My aunt, as a deaf adult who is also cognitively delayed, is unaware of the importance that other deaf people place on name signs, and has always taken a much more simple approach. She gives each person she meets a sign that is essentially the first letter of their name held against her cheek, shoulder or the top of her head.

However, more often in the Deaf Community, name signs are a gift. They are given to non-deaf friends or family only when the deaf person feels they've earned a name sign and their trust. Some other deaf people do use the person's initials, though often in other locations or combined with some other personal characteristic. Other people choose to create their own personalized name sign based on a physical feature, personality trait, habit or inside joke. The signs are particularly treasured and take time to be chosen.


6. Deaf people are generally proud to be deaf.

While much of "hearing America" looks at deaf people with pity and thinks of deafness as a disability and hardship, members of the Deaf Community don't see it that way at all. Many of them hope to have deaf children who will also become strong members of the Deaf Community. The culture is incredibly close-knit, encouraging and open by nature. Deaf people share much more with their friends and neighbors than someone hearing usually would.

But the most important thing to take away from all of this is that if deaf people don't think of themselves as disabled, hearing people shouldn't think of them that way either.

Cover Image Credit: Nancy Rourke

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.
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Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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Injuries Are Hard, But It's Harder With A Long Healing Process

It's longer than I anticipated, and it's even harder to deal with than I expected.

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On January 3, 2019, I took a fall on some ice. After an ambulance ride to the hospital and having X-ray's done it was revealed that I had a compression fracture in my lower spine. It was described to me as saying that the spine is sort of liked a bunch of marshmallow shaped bones. I fell and landed so hard that I squished one of my marshmallows. It was quite painful as you can imagine.

The only thing I could do was wear a back brace throughout the day and rest, waiting for it to heal. The predicted time frame for this heal was three months. At first, it was kind of nice. Just relaxing and catching up on some shows and movies, plus with the pain doing nothing obviously felt the best. After a couple of weeks, it started to get annoying.

I used to work at a daycare. So going from being on my feet and chasing little ones around all day to nothing was a huge adjustment for me. Once I was able to do a bit more walking and was able to drive again it was frustrating cause I had nowhere to go and nothing to do. Let alone any money to do anything anyway as workman's compensation only pays so much of what you would normally be earning.

My family and friends are working and I'm left alone and bored. I don't even have a hobby to fall back on to keep me busy. I'm just stuck in my house slowly but surely feeling like I'm losing my mind. It gives me way too much time to think which just makes me feel crazier.

When I was told that my injury was getting worse at my last appointment I wanted to scream. It meant another few months stuck in my brace doing nothing. If I get any worse then we are talking about the surgery which means a lot of pain again and an even longer time stuck doing nothing.

Injuries that take a long time to heal are hard to deal with. You feel like you should and could be doing more, but know that if you do you aren't going to heal the right way. I have to be careful with bending, I can't lift anything too heavy and I have to wear my brace all the time which is super annoying and something I just want to be out of already.

I just want to get back to my life. I'm tired of feeling so useless and stuck.

It's all about patience when it comes to the healing process, and my patience is really starting to wear thin.

For those of you who are healthy, enjoy it. Be thankful that you aren't stuck doing nothing. I wrote an article not too long ago about dealing with back injuries and how much you don't realize what your back really does for you. I'm in this tough position where not only am I bored and waiting for this to heal, but I also really can't do anything.

Waiting is hard enough. Waiting several months just feels torturous at this point. Anyone who has to wait for injuries to heal and are hating it, I feel you. I understand the struggle. All I can hope is that once my time has come where I'm finally free of these restrictions, I can get to being myself again.

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