Although Deaf people are fully functional in a hearing society, there are times when Deaf awareness issues are brought to the forefront for both Deaf and hearing people. I experienced prime examples of this while collaborating on several projects with the Deaf CEO of Zambia Deaf Vision in Zambia, Africa last summer.
While working together, there was one particular incident that really stood out for me. We were video recording the Zambian Sign Language program. I was giving signals to the Deaf person when to start signing for each frame. There were several times I indicated to pause. After multiple times of pausing, the Deaf CEO looked around to try to observe what problem was causing me to repeatedly pause the video recording.
From his viewpoint nothing out of the ordinary seemed to be happening. As I watched his facial expressions appearing to say,
“ What is the problem?”
Then he signed, “Come on, let’s continue.”
I signed, "No." Then I proceeded signing dramatically with my non manual markers about all the various simultaneous and interrupting environmental sounds that I was hearing! You know, non manual markers are the grammatical semantic features other than the hands that are shown through facial expressions, body language, gestures, and spatial information. He saw a flurry of them as I was specifically signing the movements and loud rhythmical sounds, especially the sound coming from the drumming.
His eyes darted in every direction as I was signing, "Behind you in a short distance, they are drumming for the presidential election. Over there, kids are in the pool laughing and screaming. Behind the kids, men are laughing and talking real loud! The TV in the restaurant is playing so loud until it sounds like they are fighting. To your right, that group of people are starting to sing Happy Birthday and behind you, I heard that car driving up with it’s loud motor."
After seeing every area I was identifying sound from, he finally turned around looking back at me in astonishment.
He quietly signed, “But, I am Deaf.”
As a mature person who had become profoundly deaf at the age of six years old, for him, his Eyes are his Ears. He like many other Deaf people live in a rich sensory world wherein they experience vision and touch as a primary means of spatial awareness and orientation.
I am a teacher of sign language, not an interpreter. My signing ability gave him accessibility to know what environmental sounds, I was experiencing that was impeding him from continuing with the video recording.
What occurred in this incident is exactly what I continually share with my students who are learning American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf Culture. Whatever signs you know, when you are in the company of a Deaf person, put your hands up and sign so you can provide accessibility. Through his preferred language, Zambian Sign Language, not only was he made aware of the sounds, but he gained an understanding from a hearing person's perspective the editing process I would need to perform to remove all the various sounds.
In that incident, we both experienced,
My Eyes are my Ears.
Easy Signing and Zambia Deaf Vision's new Zambian Sign Language program is going to be exciting! Why? You will not only learn Zambian Sign Language, but our program will include Bemba, the dialect spoken in the Cooperbelt area of Zambia. When you come to Zambia to visit, volunteer, or to help us to continue expanding our first Deaf operated Resource Training Center in Ndola, you will be equipped with your new language skills.
Look for the new release of our Zambian Sign Language program coming soon!
Zambia Deaf Vision's CEO, Joseph Mwaba signing "SON" in Zambian Sign Language.