Deaf Awareness Day encourages communication

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Yesha Thakkar

Deaf Awareness Day provided students with the chance to learn about the experiences of those who are deaf through interactive presentations, games, and videos in the Little Theater Wednesday, April 10.

Throughout the day, presenters invited students to engage in partner activities to understand lip reading and sign language, watch videos about the problems that deaf people encounter, and try out dance moves. These hands-on presentations worked to reduce the stigma around interacting with deaf individuals and provide means by which both hearing and deaf students can communicate with each other.

“We’re basically all the same. We can focus on the differences, be afraid to communicate with someone who may communicate a little differently, or we can really try to build bridges across those differences, and that’s what life is all about to me,” she said.

According to EDCO teacher Rhys McGovern, hearing students can share experiences with deaf students by understanding “how to communicate with those who are deaf.” To reinforce this idea, presenters discussed methods to stimulate dialogue between hearing and deaf people, including lip-reading, sign language, and other unconventional means such as dance.

Reading lips is a useful way to understand what someone else is saying, but this technique is not always helpful, according to EDCO faculty members in b-block’s presentation. To demonstrate this, the presenters invited audience members to read each others’ lips. Participating students learned that lip reading is not always the best way to communicate because it can often be inaccurate.

Another means of interaction is American Sign Language (ASL). During f-block, EDCO students signed the alphabets in ASL, British Sign Language, and the Plains Indian Sign Language to showcase the complexity of these languages. “ASL is not a broken language like many think. It is a complete language with components of spoken languages such as grammar, literature, and even jokes,” McGovern said.

Communication does not just come in the form of words, according to DEAFinitely, a hip-hop group comprised of both deaf and hearing members based in Boston and Newton. The group performed several dances d-block using a mix of sign language and dancing, afterwards inviting audience members to learn some dance moves as well.

The day also gave audience members the opportunity to understand the problems that deaf people encounter, which often arise from hearing students’ perceptions of the EDCO program. Senior Sam Sit said that students shouldn’t make generalizations about the program and the people within it.

“Like all people, those with hearing loss all experience sounds and communication differently,” he said.

“People who are deaf are not ‘hearing impaired’. Impaired means that something or someone is broken, however deaf people are not broken and have their own ways of communicating and interpreting language,” Steiner added.

McGovern added that students should avoid speaking with slow or exaggerated motions when talking to someone who is deaf. During d-block, students in the EDCO program also handed out flyers that explained what not to do when interacting with those who are deaf.