About Being Deaf
+ Can you read lips?
Yes and no. I do find it helpful to see someone’s face as I can hear them and semi-read their lips. I definitely rely more on my hearing to put the pieces of the “puzzle” together. There are some deaf people that are really good at reading lips, others can’t at all.
+ Were you born deaf?
I was born deaf. I was actually born with a condition called Usher’s Syndrome which is a condition characterized by partial or total hearing loss and vision loss that worsens over time. The loss of vision is caused by an eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which affects the layer of light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (the retina). I have perfect central vision, but very minimal peripheral vision, I see a total of 50 degrees all around, while a normal person sees 180 degrees. Best way for me to explain it is - it is tunnel vision. I grew up wearing hearing aids, and took speech therapy until about 6th grade. Then was diagnosed at the age of 21 with Usher’s Syndrome. When I was 29, I opted to get a cochlear implant on my left side, and it’s improved my communication, however, it’s caused me to have many headaches, so I honestly HATE my cochlear but will wear it if I need to. I’m one of the FEW people that will fully admit that I hate the cochlear implant. The reason why I got it was because I wanted to have a back-up in case I did actually lose all my vision (there’s no way for me to tell how my vision will progress)
+ Is sign language a universal language that all deaf people use to communicate?
There are different sign language in different countries. Some signs are similiar, others are very different. Or there may be a sign that has a completely different meaning. Often times, if both parties put effort forth in understanding what the other is saying. It’s not perfect, but we can hold pretty lengthy conversations.
Another thing I'd like to note, there are even different nuances of specific signs depending on which part of the U.S. you are from. It's kind of like speaking with an accent, but we sign with an accent!
+ In person, is it helpful to try and communicate with very broken ASL or is it just off putting and frustrating?
It’s not off-putting per se… I appreciate the effort, but sometimes it can make communication more complicated than necessary. For example, growing up, my aunt was the only one outside of my immediate family that made the effort to sign. But she signed so slow that there were definitely times when I would think , “OMG please hurry up or just talk!”
When someone does make an effort to try to sign, it’s fine, but don’t say that you know ASL. Just say you have picked up a couple things. I’d ask the person how they’d best want to communicate.
+ Do you appreciate it when people slow down to speak or does it annoy you or feel patronizing?
It’s not patronizing, but I’ve had to tell people to slow down because I wasn’t able to keep up with what they were saying. But if you start talking in slow motion, that’s patronizing.
+ Do you listen to music?
I do listen to music. Most of my favorite stuff is from the 90’s cuz I was born in the 80’s and 90’s music rocks!! Most of my friends also do listen to music as well. It varies as to what kind though. I definitely like Pop music - easy for me to understand. Some deaf people like Rap, Hip Hop, Techno. Our tastes varies just as much as yours does!
+ Do you see being deaf as its own culture?
Deaf does have its own culture. Here’s a snippet:
American Deaf culture centers on the use of ASL and identification and unity with other people who are Deaf. A Deaf sociolinguist, Dr. Barbara Kannapel, developed a definition of the American Deaf culture that includes a set of learned behaviors of a group of people who are deaf and who have their own language (ASL), values, rules, and traditions.