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Deaf Culture:  The Deaf Community as A Pond

Updated 09/12/08
William G. Vicars, Ed.D.

The Deaf Community as a Pond

The Deaf Community is like a pond.
The fish are Deaf people.
The frogs are hard of hearing people.
The landwalkers strolling on the banks are Hearing people.
The water is the silent environment.
The ability to breathe the water is ASL.
Fins, flippers, and webbing (the ability to navigate the water) is familiarity with Deaf Culture.
Snorkelers are individuals who have learned enough sign language to skim along near the top of the water.
Scuba divers are the graduates of interpreter training programs and Deaf Studies programs who have invested heavily in being able to breath under water.
Mudskippers (fish that have crawled out of the water and are waddling around on their front fins trying to walk and gasping on the air) are the oralists and cochlear implant recipients.
Dolphins and porpoises are children of deaf adults (CODAs), Siblings and Spouses of Deaf adults (SODAs). They live in the water, are often mistaken for fish, but breathe air.
Flying fish are those culturally and physically deaf individuals who also happen to be good at lipreading. They occasionally go into the air but come right back to the water.
A lonely fish in a small bowl is a Deaf person who is isolated in a hearing family or public school.  If you put a fish in a bowl and stick the bowl on a table or shelf--that fish is now isolated, lonely, and dependant on the "owner" for food and fresh water.

I'm happy that people are considering and discussing my analogy. 
I came up with it because so much wanted a simple way for people to understand the relationships between hearing and Deaf in the pond.
I originally only used three "characters in the analogy: fish, frogs, and landwalkers."
At first I lumped codas and sodas in with the frogs. But then later realized that there needed to be more distinctions due to the differences in levels of commitment to the water (visual environment/ASL).  Frogs are physically different from either landwalkers or fish.  They are not as skilled at breathing air as landwalkers and they are not as fast at swimming as the fish.  Thus I decided that only hard of hearing people are frogs.

Hearing people who know ASL are still landwalkers but they now have a tool with which to function in a water environment.  Some landwalkers simply take a deep breath and dive in for a few minutes. They thrash around, scare the fish, and then climb out after a few minutes and tell their friends what a great time it was swimming. 
Others buy a snorkle (take lots of classes, attend deaf events). 
Others grow up around water, (codas/sodas) buy boats, snorkels, scuba gear, could stay down a very long time and understand how to get along with the fish without scaring them.   Interpreters could fit into either category, snorkeler or scuba diver, depending on whether they grew up around the fish and or how much they currently immerse themselves in the water.

Fish and some species of frogs must be in the water or they will die.
They have no choice.  They can't climb out of the water at the end of the day, dry off and go home.  The water is their home.

I've added yet another "creature" to the pond:  Dolphins (and porpoises).  It seems to me that some Codas are like dolphins. 
Dolphins are born in the water and swim like a fish.  Their mannerisms are like those of fish, but technically dolphins are not fish -- they are mammals, they breathe air. 
That is like some Codas.  They are born into the Deaf community and ASL is their first language.  Their mannerisms are similar to those of Deaf people, but Codas can hear.




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