In Canada, over 90 per cent of d/Deaf children are born to hearing parents — the same parents who may never learn sign language nor teach it to their d/Deaf child.
American Sign Language (ASL) was suppressed as a valid language for decades, discouraged from being taught to deaf children with the goal of teaching them to communicate verbally instead, and the effects of that still continue today.
During my childhood I was denied this knowledge of Deaf culture by doctors, parents and teachers, and was never afforded the opportunity to truly comprehend what I was even missing.
I was fortunate enough to secure a spot in UBC's ASL 100 and 101 courses during the 2022/23 winter semester (big shout out to Prof. Nigel Howard!) and gained an excellent understanding of the basics of the language. But UBC still doesn’t have any higher level ASL courses — what am I supposed to do now?
I have only recently been able to rope my parents into learning some sign language and to try and incorporate it into our everyday conversations. It's been weird and difficult having to communicate verbally my whole life. I've been going by hearing people's rules this whole time, and it sucks that when I ask them to do what works better for me, I feel like I’m inconveniencing them. They've slowly been trying to incorporate more ASL. I know they mean well, but I still can't ignore the feeling that I'm not being taken seriously.
Where is UBC's Deaf community? Why do I feel so isolated? Why does the ASL club not have any d/Deaf members? Why do staff at the Centre for Accessibility still try to call me on the phone?
Why do hearing people obsess over audio-only forms of content? How do they not understand that there are millions of people they're leaving out? The podcasts, the phone calls, the refusal to acknowledge that disabled people exist — it irritates me to no end. Just add captions, a transcript, anything!
It feels as if we’ve completely forgotten the existence of letters, emails and text messages. I can only make a phone call to book an appointment at my audiologist. That has to be some cruel joke, right? Why must I ask my mother to make appointments for me at the grown age of 20, as if I'm still a child?
The expression “Deaf and dumb” comes from the notion that a d/Deaf person who cannot verbally communicate is a moron, idiotic, dumb. This is still used in phrases like “struck dumb” — being unable to speak. Before somebody comes in here saying “it's just words,” “it's not that deep” or “the meaning has changed,” just know this — your failure to recognize your mistakes genuinely does harm us.
This article is a part of The Ubyssey's 2023 language supplement, In Other Words.