This past weekend I took my daughter with me to the Deaf Expo in Pleasanton. It was almost an hour drive to get there early in the morning. My role was to answer questions about dentistry. However, a lot of questions were about insurance coverage and not dental health. With literally hundreds of insurance policies in existence, it was difficult to answer all the questions. It’s hard enough to have to explain it to my hearing patients, can you imagine signing it in ASL? Thank goodness for the awesome interpreter, Pat, sitting next to me. He was more than generous with his time and skills! I just met him that day and after an hour, we were friends.
Truth be told, I didn’t think he was friendly at first. Apparently, one is not to talk when one is amongst the deaf. I never understood that because I’m a hearing person who learned ASL so I can “talk” to my hearing-impaired friends/patients. But it’s considered rude. So that first hour was very quiet on that side of my table. But within 30 minutes, their interpreters and hearing friends were all talking. The code of silence was no more. I wonder why a hearing person cannot talk and sign at the same time? It is so much easier, at least for me, than to sign without talking.
Pat watched me signed and took some of my business cards as he’s an avid believer in a more comprehensive medical/dental results when your doctor can communicate in your language, or in this case, ASL. Logically, it makes the appointment goes by quicker as there’s no writing back and forth. But for me, it’s just fun to be able to sign. I love it. Not to mention when I am working, my patients can sign to me without choking by talking.
So, after introducing my daughter to a different culture, I asked her what she has learned from the experience. She replied:
- Deaf people are happy. When they sign, they’re always smiling. I told her deaf people just have to use their face to express what they’re conveying as tones and volumes of words are non-existent for them. However, on that day, it did seem people were happier. As I found out later, it was also a day of gathering and reunion for so many people as they were able to catch up with friends from far away. That would explain why people were hanging around all day long.
- Blind people who can “read” hand signs just by touching with one hand are amazing. I completely agree with this. I can’t explain it to her but to witness it left me without words. To be blind and deaf and still able to communicate so well is simply God’s gift. I was in awe watching it happened that I almost forgot to answer their questions.
She concluded on our way to the car, “People are people. It’s just how nice they are…” She had multiple opportunities to interact with deaf, hearing and hard-of-hearing visitors. She found many to be very friendly and nice, be them deaf or (hard of) hearing. Hopefully this is the lesson she will continue to take with her throughout her life. You are you, different from others and it’s okay. Sometimes it’s cool to be different. Mommy is cool.