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Deaf Culture Day: Poet describes life as deaf adult

Panelists present as a part of Deaf Culture Day A-block. Photo by Judith Gibson-Okunieff.

by Nicky Kaufman

Ayisha Knight-Shaw. a deaf poet, discussed the difference between the English language and American Sign Language today E-block in the auditorium as part of Deaf Culture Day.

Knight-Shaw was raised in California and attended both “hearing” schools  as well as schools for the deaf before attending Gallaudet University. Currently, Knight- Shaw is married, she drives, and she believes she lives a relatively normal life.

Knight-Shaw believes that English and Sign Language are very different. “They are two completely different languages. I speak Sign Language, not English.”

Knight-Shaw grew up singing and believes that Sign Language is unique because it allows deaf people across the United States to communicate easily and expressively.

Although some deaf people can speak English, she does not and feels most comfortable communicating with non-signers through writing.

Knight-Shaw also told the audience about her experience in the hearing world. Although she is deaf, she is interested in things that she was told make noise. “I keep a list of things that I know make noise and add on to it whenever someone tells me of a new noise, such as a chair scooting or a car door slamming.” Through this list, she feels she is more aware of the hearing world.

Knight-Shaw ended by encouraging all students to interact with deaf students. She believes that both students that can hear and deaf students can learn a lot from each other and have many commonalities.

“You are all students, so I think that no matter what the barrier, it matters to be friendly,” she said. “You can find a way to communicate, be it through signing, speaking or writing, and use that to make a friendship.”

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