William (Bill) Vicars, Ed.D.
Interviewer: Nicole Quinn
interview took place entirely in American Sign Language with some e-mail
clarification. I am aware that the Deaf community is a small tight knit
community. I sent this document to Bill before submitting it to ensure
that I would not misrepresent him to another member of the Deaf
interview provided me with a good look at the upbringing and life of a
man I have known since April of this year. I learned many things from
this interview that I had not expected to learn. In addition, it
stimulated my desire to think more about the Deaf community in
comparison with the hearing community and it brought me to the
realization that I prefer many aspects of the Deaf community over the
originally from Utah and is currently living in Sacramento, CA. Bill labels himself as
Deaf/hard-of-hearing. I was confused and asked if that meant his
hearing loss was borderline, between deaf and hard of hearing. He
clarified by explaining what this label means. He is informing me that
he is culturally Deaf; however, he is not overstating himself as being
physically deaf. Upon meeting a Deaf person, if he were to label
himself as simply “Deaf,” a series of questions, important to the Deaf,
would be set-off. The Deaf person would try to establish connections
such as attendance at a residential school for the deaf. Bill’s combined
label allows him to indicate that time would be better spent finding
medical profession labels Bill “hard of hearing.” Bill has a 55 decibel
loss in his left ear and an 85 decibel loss in his right ear. However
he is culturally Deaf. [Editor's note: Actually I consider myself
"bicultural" -- living in both worlds.] He primarily uses American Sign Language,
married a Deaf woman, works in a Deaf-related field, goes to a Deaf Church, and has Deaf friends. During our
interview, he also told me his heart was Deaf. He showed me a sign but
told me that this was not an official sign and that he was playing with
signs; however, it clearly indicated his meaning. To indicate this, he
used an index-finger hand shape and pointed two times at his heart
moving in a small arc. I really like this sign.
was born hard-of-hearing, his mother is also hard of hard-of-hearing and
he has a deaf aunt. He told me he was mainstreamed using the normal
sign, he elaborated by modifying the sign. His left had signed
mainstream but his right hand used the classifier used to indicate one
person or the number 1 hand shape. This clearly showed me that he was
one individual in a sea of hearing people. His parents never learned
sign language. They also did not force him to learn to speak. Bill’s
residual hearing allowed him to learn English without too much
because he was put in a hearing school and his parents did not teach him
sign, there was no question that he would learn to speak. It just
happened. On occasion, he would missread (lip-read) and then in turn he
would misspeak. He told me that when he was in school he used to say
the Pledge of Allegiance wrong. He used to say, “I pledge allegiance to
the fag of the
United States of America…”
The “l” sound in flag was undetectable to him. Later, he read the
pledge of allegiance and realized his error. He went to speech therapy
in order to refine his English.
16, Bill began learning sign language. He learned it from a deaf woman
named Kathy Hadfield. She was teaching a sign language class and he
joined it. He started to socialize with other deaf people and at 19 he
felt he was finally a part of the Deaf Community.
him which Deaf community was larger, the one in his hometown or the one
in Sacramento. His response
was that the Sacramento Deaf community was bigger and more diverse.
But, Bill is Mormon and the Mormon subculture within the Deaf community
is much larger in Utah.
been told by many people that Bill has an extremely clear speaking
voice. I have never heard him speak. I was curious about when he uses
his voice. He uses it in restaurants or when it would facilitate easier
communication with non-signing hearing people. He uses both his voice
and sign language with his children. He says his children choose to
sign to him when they want something or when they are in a situation
that is not conducive to voicing, such as a noisy crowded restaurant.
His children also use sign as a backup if he does not understand what
they are saying.
interview forced me to push away my preconceived ideas about the Deaf
community and look closer at what it really is. I have always liked
playing with words and until this interview, I had not considered that
the Deaf play with signs just like hearing people play with words.
Also, before this interview I realized that there were deaf people who
are culturally hearing and hearing people who are culturally Deaf, for
example, a CODA. However, somehow, it did not fully strike home until I
had this conversation with Bill. This interview showed me that the
labels the medical profession utilizes are worthless in the Deaf
community. Before the interview, I though the Deaf community accepted
the labels the medical profession uses. During the interview I realized
this was wrong.
Bill told me that he was 16-years-old when he started learning sign, I
though well, at least he learned it while he was young. But when I sat
down to write this essay, I had the realization that I am 16-years-old
and he did not have a natural language until he was my age. I cannot
imagine what it would be like to not have a natural language until this
point in my life. Granted, Bill was able to use English well and was
able to communicate; but, he did not have a language that was natural to
result of observing the Deaf culture, I have started to pay more
attention to the hearing culture and in that; I have been noticing more
and more differences. In my experience, Deaf people want to tell me
their life story; however, they do not seem to be looking for pity.
They also, seem to genuinely want to hear about my life as well. On the
other hand, many hearing people complain to each other. When they tell
someone about their life, a lot of the time, they are looking for pity.
I think many hearing people feel cared about when people feel sorry for
them. I feel that the hearing way is unhealthy because it promotes the
negative feelings. The Deaf way seems to allow that anger to
dissipate. Also, I have noticed in the Deaf community, my age is not as
important as it is in the hearing community.
also noticed that the Deaf are much more open with information and more
direct. The hearing culture is much more superficial and people are
always afraid of offending others. As a result of this interview, I
know a lot more about Bill. Because he was willing to be open and share
his life story with me, I was able to learn more about him and relate
better to him than if this interview was with a hearing person. An
interview with a hearing person would have probably been rather
superficial. I realize the irony in this statement. I know that if a
culturally Deaf person were to interview another culturally Deaf person,
the interview would have delved much deeper. I am comfortable when a
Deaf person is direct with me. But, I, as a culturally hearing person,
am still not comfortable being so forward and direct. So I realize this
interview may seem superficial to you but from my hearing perspective,
it was a deep interview.