A Deaf Perspective: Life With Assumptions | ft. Gianna Heaviland

Video: http://youtu.be/kOaI8KxI70g

This blog post will only be a direct transcript of the video, due to it being a conversation between two people. Enjoy!

Rogan: Hello! I’m Rogan and I’m here with a guest today.

Gianna: Hello, my name is Gianna Heaviland. I’m a second year here at NTID, and I’m from San Diego, California.

R: Today, we’ll be discussing assumptions people make about deaf people at different times in their lives. We’ll start with elementary, well, younger deaf children at the elementary age. What is one of the biggest assumptions about deaf children?

G: I think one big assumption about deaf children is that they can’t decide for themselves, obviously. I feel like adults think that whatever they decide is the best for them, the right choice. Sometimes it’s not.

R: I think that’s because adults will say okay, you have to do this, this, this, but don’t let the children learn for themselves. Like here, no wait, it’s fine, you don’t have to do this, never mind. But that is blocking them from learning, from growing. And often parents are the key, parents. Yeah, teachers teach kids, yes. But the largest source of learning is from home, really. And often parents don’t have communication with their children, they don’t. No language, so that is a delay for children already if they don’t have language. So that’s a big problem that needs to be fixed.

G: People think that sometimes our “disability” is our fault for not learning. Like, the deafness causes us to be dumb, but really it’s parents, doctors, hearing specialists, teachers, everything in the system, everything. So it’s really their responsibility to guide us children as we’re growing up the way we should.

R: Studies have proven it too, that children need to be bilingual, if they’re deaf, they need to have two languages: English and sign. Because if it’s English alone, some succeed, yes. But not all of them. Many of them don’t because they need two languages. Even if they start with ASL, they can have good English. Many studies have shown this.

G: I know many, I know many people who value English and ASL. You don’t have to speak English to know it.

R: Now, we’re gonna talk about around high school and middle school age range. Older, but still have assumptions, different kinds of assumptions at that age. The biggest one for me is often, in middle/high school, teachers will either think that you’ve gotten through, gotten this far only because other people have let you slide, so the teachers will let you slide too. Or… You’re in high school, yeah sure, but that doesn’t mean you’re smart. It’s high school, whatever.

G: Because you have to go to high school anyway. It’s unfortunate because some people had an advantage, they had language growing up. They got lucky. But sometimes, they don’t have language at all, or learn later. They’re already delayed, it’s not fair to them. So… I think it’s interesting. In middle school and high school, people aren’t asking questions, being curious. Not anymore. I think middle/high school, that’s when people notice what’s normal, what’s not normal, and judging. That’s the time when more discrimination happens, I think. More bullying, more looking-down-on, so I think that can affect your self-esteem. Sometimes I think it might better to be at a deaf school sometimes. I mean, because you can relate with people that are the same, that understand. But mainstream is not equal as much. But if you have a deaf program, you’re lucky. But if you’re alone in mainstream, hmm.

R: Deaf schools are a whole other story because yeah, sure, deaf schools are great for socializing with other deaf people, build self-confidence. But… There’s also a downside, because not all deaf schools have great education. Some deaf schools, yes, are phenomenal and have top education.

G: Not enough money. Again, the system is not giving money for deaf schools. They have lower expectations for them.

R: Right now, there are a lot of cuts for deaf schools. Oh, there aren’t enough deaf students going, so cut the money. No! We need them. We do need them. Yeah, deaf schools are better for some people, and mainstream is better for some. Now we’re going to talk about college, again, a whole other level of assumptions about deaf people in college. So what’s the biggest one?

G: I think people already know about technology, hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices. So they know what options you have, but they’re not really aware about sign language itself. It’s a language, but they really focus on the technology. So… While I’m here, everyone asks me if I have a cochlear implant. Like, is that important? I feel like people already know what’s in progress, in the making, and people forget that… Well, not forget, but people literally don’t know. They don’t know that we have a language and culture.

R: Sometimes people have asked me, “Why don’t you have a CI?” It’s not that simple of a decision to get a CI. And not everyone qualifies for one. I don’t qualify, I’m pretty sure I don’t qualify for a CI. Some people do qualify but don’t want one because they don’t feel like they need it. Really, there are many reasons why people don’t get a CI, so…

G: That’s an important life decision too, it’s not like oh, it’s nothing. We’re in college. That’s the time when we’re old enough to decide. So if you see no hearing aids or implants… That’s why you will see that often, because people decide later that they don’t want to be involved with that. They don’t want to.

R: In high school, often, you can be pretty confident that they will provide an interpreter. Often. You can be pretty confident that they’ll provide interpreters. But when you go into college– Ok fine, a good example. If I was hearing, while I’m in high school, and apply. I could apply to ANY college I want, and not worry about it. I want to go to this college, sure, why not? But for deaf students, we have to think about where we go, because… Yes, all colleges are required by law to provide interpreters, yes, but certain colleges will be harder to get interpreters than others. Like for example, we have three colleges that are easy to get interpreters for deaf students. RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology), CSUN (California State University, Northridge), and Gallaudet University. Those three are the top schools for deaf students, but that is pretty much it. Deaf students sometimes will go to other schools, but that’s only because of a specific major they want to do, and they will struggle with interpreters, they will. That’s a big difference.

G: We shouldn’t have to worry about that. We have three options, that’s it. But we shouldn’t have to worry about if we will get services, will we have problems, will a lawsuit happen? That, it’s like… I don’t understand. Face any problems, I would recommend it. But if no deaf people go to different schools, then how will we know, how will we know that we can get in?

R: How will the schools learn how to deal with deaf people? After getting in college, another barrier we face sometimes – often, not sometimes, often – is that professors will be like, “Oh.. You’re deaf. That means you aren’t smart enough. You can’t read, you can’t write, because you’re deaf.” How do you think we got into college in the first place? We have to take a test to be able to get in, we have to have a specific score, and if we didn’t pass that, we wouldn’t be here so why do you assume that we don’t how to write and read English? It doesn’t make sense.

G: And a lot of deaf people, their first language is English. 90% of families are hearing with deaf children. So a lot of us learn English spoken first, sometimes written, but there are 10% deaf families that sign with ASL then it will be both, most of the time.

R: But even then, that 10%, not all deaf people sign. Not all of them, so there are some deaf families who have deaf children, all are oral. So… Their first language is English. So often, more than 90% of deaf people, their first language is English. How are we even in college?

G: Later, in the workplace. Trying to get a job, that’s ten times worse. Ten times worse, trying to get in.

R: Often, jobs won’t provide interpreters. They’ll say, “No, it’s your responsibility, we’re not responsible.”

G: They have to pay for you.

R: And interpreters are not cheap. They’re not.

G: Understand, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 says that state-owned facilities, buildings, establishments have to pay for your services. Whatever you need–note-taker, captionist, interpreter, tele-communication, which means TTY, not really TTYs anymore.

R: They’re gone. The Ubi-Duo.

G: It’s old, gone! They drag it out, and say here you go. No, no, no. We need videophones now, new technology.

R: VRI, Video Relay Interpreter. A screen with an interpreter, not as good as an actual interpreter but…

G: If we need VRS, then we can go ahead. But people think it delays, takes forever, too long. Not really. Just one quick call, and they interpret for you.

R: What we DO require is providing interpreters for important things like meetings, one-on-ones, important things. But other than that, we tend to not really need an interpreter. The key is communication. We always appreciate it when you make an effort to communicate with us. Maybe you can’t sign, that’s fine, but at least make an effort to communicate with us. We really do appreciate it.

G: I really recommend that you analyze and observe your workplace before entering, knowing it. But if you feel like there’s discrimination, and you’re not happy there, I recommend you leave. I mean, it’s for the best.

R: Don’t leave if you are really trapped, of course, but try to figure out something as back-up plan once you leave. Discrimination is not okay, really. It’s not. See HR.

G: Know your rights.

Both: Know your rights.

G: Period.

R: That’s all we have for you today. Thanks for watching, and I hope you enjoyed it. See you next time.

G: Thank you!

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