When we think of the deaf, the first thing that comes into our minds might probably be sign language. Since they cannot communicate through speech and sound, they have to resort to gestures and hand movements. But, is that the long and short of it? That's the deaf? I beg to disagree.
I never dreamed of being engrossed with the deaf, much less being near them. But I was fascinated by their language. It's soo beautiful. Every movement has meaning. The graceful flow of hands, moods of body, flickering of fingers, all suggest a variety of definition. I believe most of my colleagues would agree that we all started to love the deaf by loving their language first.
Deafness to some medical doctors is an incurable disease. Any residual hearing should be capitalized in order for the disease to be at least "superficially covered." Hearing aids, cochlear implants, therapy, etc. are needed in order to make the deaf appear "normal." These are their pathological assumptions.
After my first brief encounter with Charvie Arreola,a deaf student during a Campus Crusade for Christ Youth Camp last 1992, I began to look for ways to get near a true blooded genuine deaf. Three short years later, after completing my studies at Philippine Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, taught and mastered sign from my boss whom I hold in high esteem, Ms. Rosalie Maracaig of Gallaudet University, experiencing interpreting stints at "Kapwa Ko Mahal Ko" TV program and Sunday morning "Lagare" (doing many things at the same time) at Capitol City Baptist Church, Project 6 Baptist Church and Lighthouse Baptist Church (at least they are all Baptist churches) lighter moments withMs. Tess Buenaventura (our English Instructor and one of my closest friends) and of course having a deaf best friendNonoy and now Ervin Reyes whom I shared the gospel of salvation and accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior, I more or less acquired and loved their culture.
I believe that no culture is better than another culture. But
deaf culture is a highly debated one. Most of us who are involved
with the hearing impaired in this country don't believe that there exists
such a culture. But let me first enumerate the attributes of a culture
as compared to the so called "Deaf Culture".
|STANDARD CULTURE||DEAF CULTURE|
|1. OWN METHOD OF COMMUNICATION||EYES AND HANDS, TTY'S, IRC, EMAIL,
LIGHTS FOR DOORBELL, ETC.
|2. LANGUAGE||AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE (ASL)
PHILIPPINES SIGH LANGUAGE (PSL)
|3. HISTORICAL INFORMATION||DEAF HISTORY, FOLKLORE|
|4. COMMUNITY AND PEOPLE||DEAF COMMUNITY|
|5. LEARNED BEHAVIOR||DEAF WAY|
Based on these facts, it is to be believed that deaf culture exist. Rutherfords, "The Culture of American Deaf People" study indicates that the primary objectives of Deaf Culture are the successful adaptation and survival of the group in its specific environment. The other is the maintenance of the groups' identity and unity through time.
The deaf cannot rely on their residual hearing to absorb information. Thus, eyes and body movement are generally used. Some tribes in Africa uses these gestures to convey a message or warn against danger. But for the deaf, it's a necessity. Modern amenities help them communicate well. The visual technology like captioned TV, use of TTY's (text telephones), flashing alarm clocks, vibrators, doorbells and telephone alerting lights, computers and modems all help in communications for the deaf. But sad to say, Filipino deaf don't have the luxury of having much less using these highly technical facilities. They completely rely on their own radars and satellites, the deaf way.
Another hotly contested issue is the Filipino Sign Language. The Deaf community believes, and we are in unity with them, that there is a sign language native to the Filipino deaf. Other skeptics believe that these are only homemade signs or some bastardized Signing Exact English.
We don't think so. In fact, MCCID is one of the advocates of the use of Filipino Sign Language both inside the classroom as well as in our daily conversations with them. They are more at ease with it. Staunch supporters of PSL/FSL are now documenting the vocabulary and will be releasing them soon. For our part, MCCID is now in the process of producing a book on sign language in computer terms. We invited some deaf who are working in computer companies and are in constant use of computer words.
For those who don't believe in PSL, try to observe the deaf communicating with another deaf. If the unbelievers can reverse interpret them with ease and freely flowing, then there is no PSL. But if not, well, you have to reconsider your ideas. The deaf has their own word order, signs and idioms peculiar to them.
One of the parents of our deaf student told a story of her daughter celebrating her birthday at a certain date. They didn't plan to celebrate her birthday until about one week before. She was surprised when so many deaf attended her party at such short notice. They came from various places even as far as Pampanga and Cavite. That is how they can contact their deaf friends through their own network.
In my subject, Deaf Culture ( MCCID is the only school in the country that has this subject ) we gathered ten distinct characteristics of deaf people. They are:
1. When mainstreamed with hearing people, without moving, they can be mistaken as hearing.
2. They make peculiar movements when communicating. You can differentiate them by comparing a genuine deaf from a hearing who knows sign language.
3. They show feelings in exaggerated appearance. A very happy mood is easily noticed from an excited one.
4. Views the surroundings and happenings in the world in a different way according to what they see, resulting to incomplete information.
5. Keen on gossiping and making stories about other persons. (most hearing people are also guilty of it !!!)
6. They show marked respect to teachers and other higher authority.
7. They easily feel the change of mood and feelings of another person within their surroundings.
8. It is imbedded in their emotions the feeling of deprivation due to discrimination from the hearing people. Some feel sorry for their predicament.
9. Most of them are suspicious of their surroundings and friends.
10. They are very loyal to the people who understands their plight.
This is definitely and incomplete explanation of this very rich and exciting culture. I have only discussed an overview of it. MCCID always believe that the deaf has their own place under the sun and it's up to us hearing to give them their rightful place.
( SPECIAL THANKS TO POSITION PAPERS OF MS. ROSALE MACARAIG, TELECOMMUNICATION FOR THE DEAF, CONVENTION OF AMERICAN INSTRUCTORS FOR THE DEAF, INC., NONOY, ERVIN, SANDY, CAROL AND ALL STUDENTS OF MANILA CHRISTIAN COMPUTER INSTITUTE FOR THE DEAF FOUNDATION, INC.)