The deaf, or the “deaf mute” or those suffering deaf mutism as is often described are just like any other person in the society. That they can not speak or hear words audibly does not exclude them from enjoying the basic necessities of life as well as achieve their ultimate desires in life. This piece is written to raise the level of awareness through asking the necessary questions that can have a positive impact in the way the ordinary person on the street relates to the concept of deaf and deafness.
The deaf, in very simple terms communicate through sign language developed as a factor of necessity. This is because unable to communicate through hearing and speaking, they depend largely on signed language and body language communication. It is an established fact that there are hundreds of deaf sign language versions throughout the world. Also, these language versions were evolved wherever deaf people live. This seems natural since there has to be a way of communicating with the person who can neither hear nor speak using audible words.
The need for greater awareness of the dilemma of the deaf is on the fact that through ignorance, many people are confused when confronted by the fact that they have a deaf child born to them and are unable to fully integrate with such people. There is little anybody can do at the moment beyond the scientific and technological inventions that have helped to develop special hearing aids.
Among several attempts at promoting the development and use of the sign language is the development of sign language cultures in different countries, ‘Theatre of the Deaf’, signed interpretation of music – which provides a beautiful and expressive means of portraying musical lyrics, emotions’ and the rhythm for the ultimate enjoyment of both the deaf and hearing people. The impact of the signed interpretation of music alone has been proven to enable both types of the people to live together with better understanding and mutual delight.
The challenge is to know how best to move such a success story to the next level. What can we do to creative a more inclusive and accommodating environment where understanding and appreciation of the deaf is more of a nom than an exception? Since deaf people are often surrounded by a larger majority of hearing and speaking people, they are often a minority. However when the society appreciate their unusual qualities and talents can we start to achieve a more inclusive attitude towards them.
Learning the sign language and making it available in the curriculum of schools and colleges is a vital starting point. If a child grows up to realise that the deaf is no different to the rest of the human population other than the ability to speak and hear, the child’s attitude to the deaf would be totally different and more accommodating. This has been shown in homes where deafness affects a child, other children are known to be more accommodating to the idea than children who have never met or seen a deaf person. Siblings of deaf people are known to have acquired the skills of sign language more easily as they have been able to communicate with their deaf sibling through that medium. Besides, people travelling or visiting foreign countries have been shown to depend on sign language as the only means of expression.
Summary and Conclusion: While learning the sign language may be seen as an added load to some people, the difference between having the knowledge and not having it can mean a lot when faced with some unforeseen reality. The sign language is fun to learn and anybody can and should endeavour to know the basics of how to communicate with the deaf or hearing people alike.