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I have a question:

Dear Bill,
Currently I have her surveying all her friends to ask them how they prefer
hearing people to respond when they are in public. Example: She visited me
one weekend and we went shopping together. The store clerk spoke to her, but
she didn't know that. I was standing there, feeling really uncomfortable. I
know that deaf people do a great job of making their own way, and I didn't
want to interfere and insult her. I also felt kind of rude standing there
and acting like nothing was going on when I could tell the clerk was getting
a little annoyed. I didn't know what to do. Should I say to the clerk,
"She's deaf." or "She can't hear you." Or is it better etiquette to get the
attention of the deaf person to indicate the clerk had spoken to her? I
didn't want to step forward and be the "un-recruited interpreter" and jump in
when I wasn't asked. Nor did I want her to feel like I was treating her like
she couldn't handle herself. We hadn't known each other for long at the
time, so I didn't know how I should respond. At the first store, I just
watched to see what she would do. By the time we left, I knew the store
clerk thought, "Gee, that person was totally rude." So, at the second store
when the clerk asked her if she wanted a bag for her ice, I just couldn't
take it anymore. After the clerk repeated herself 2 times and my friend
didn't realize the woman was talking, I finally signed to my friend, "Bag?"
But then the clerk was totally embarrassed that she didn't realize my friend
was deaf, and it seemed totally tactless to say, "Oh, she's deaf." I kind of
felt like it wasn't my business to step in and automatically tell the clerk,
"She's deaf." But then it seemed totally stupid to stand there and act like
I didn't see what was going on.

Do you have an opinion on this? Is there a general preference in the deaf
community about situations like that? If I am with a deaf person I don't
know very well and we have to stop at a store, is it assumed that the
hearing person will fill in the gaps? Is it considered rude if the hearing
person jumps in? Does the deaf person anticipate that the hearing person
will automatically act as interpreter, or should the hearing person stay out
of it? My friend didn't know how she felt...she'd never thought about it! :)
She finally said she thought she would want to take care of it herself, but
if the hearing person realized that the deaf person was not hearing
something that was said, the hearing person could notify the deaf person and
let them know they were being spoken to. Sign if necessary, and let them
answer the clerk themselves. She said she just kind of does the best she can
to notice if the clerk is talking to her. Then she will say, "I'm deaf," or,
"I can't hear you."

Of the many deaf friends she surveyed, none of them had thought about it
before. They knew that situation had occurred before, but they couldn't
remember how it was handled. So, I'm sure this answer will benefit hearing
people more than deaf people. Also, if a hearing and deaf person are having
dinner together, does the hearing person assume they will do the ordering,
or what is normally expected in the deaf community?

Do you have any thoughts or opinions on these questions? I'd be really
interested in knowing. Funny enough, so would my deaf friend. :) :) :)


Dear Kim,

If I'm at a store with a hearing friend and a clerk speaks to me and I miss it I would prefer my friend to nudge my arm and glance over at the clerk while doing a very slight head-nod. Once I know that I'm being spoken to I can handle it myself. If the clerk is more than about four feet away (the limit of my residual hearing in a relatively quite environment) I'll look at my hearing friend and he (or she) automatically signs for me what was said.  

Here are some thoughts that situation:

*  Abandon a "one-size-fits-all" mentality.  No one approach fits all situations.  Some Deaf have more residual hearing and lipreading skills than others.  Some like to use their friends as terps, others prefer to use a pencil and paper.

*  When in doubt, ask.  Your friend  needs to decide what she is comfortable with and how she wants you to handle such situations in the future.

* Communication is important.  It is asinine to let a clerk repeat himself and get frustrated when you know your friend is deaf and the clerk does not.  Do something to facilitate communication.

* Do the least obtrusive thing first. After the first communication attempt is made, look to see if your friend is aware of the communication.  If not, you might just nudge your friend and glance toward the clerk while doing a very slight head-tilt in that direction.  Or, if the clerk seems agitated, you might look at the clerk, hold up your index finger in what is a relatively common gesture of "just a moment" and then casually touch your friend (nudge) to get his attention then sign the question, "BAG?"

* Empower the deaf person.  It isn't your job to tell the clerk your friend is Deaf.  If she wants to do that she can do that.

* Be a bridge, not a billboard.  You want to facilitate communication, not make a scene.

*  Be an interpreter.  If your friend is uncomfortable communicating with hearies and prefers to use an interpreter then interpret.


In a message dated 3/1/2003 1:05:48 PM Central Standard Time, writes:

This seems like such a silly question...

My kids are really enjoying learning parts of ASL at school. My 6 year old son is an avid space nut, and asked about the word for galaxy. I have checked a number of ASL sites and can't find this word anywhere. I would think that a sign would exist for this word, but maybe not? If there is one I would love to teach it to them.

T.K. Hayes

Deaf people would describe "GALAXY" using a combination of the signs for STAR, MANY, INDEX-finger point (start here) [move in spiraling circle outward].
If used often enough in the same lecture, or class, the deaf would develop a specific sign for it that would be used for the duration of that class only.
Sorry I don't have time to do a graphic for you on it, but
check out:
for aviation and science related concepts

Have a nice day,

Bill Vicars

In a message dated 1/1/2006 2:10:20 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:
When young, I severed the tendons in my left pinky and now it doesn't work quite right. It doesn't straighten or bend all the way and the tip doesn't move independently from the rest of the pinky. Something like this, or missing the tip of a finger or whatever, is this sort of like a speech defect? You just work your way around it and others will learn your particular "accent"?
Yes, you have the equivalent of a "speech impediment."
For everyday life communication purposes minor hand defects are "no big deal."
I recently went to a party hosted by one of my coworkers.  I met about 8 new people and chatted with them for various lengths of time.
Later, while replacing a baseboard in my kitchen I was using a power saw.  Such things make my wife nervous and she mentioned how common it seems that carpenters are missing parts of their fingers or thumbs. As an example she referred to one of guests at my coworker's party.
Honestly, I never noticed.  Apparently the fellow was missing from the last knuckle onward for three fingers of one hand.
I had interacted with him directly for at least five minutes and was around him for much longer than that.  I never even noticed his "impediment." 
I was genuinely surprised to be informed that he had cut off part of his fingers.  Now, admittedly that could be due to my not being very observant, heh.  But the fact is it simply wasn't an issue and didn't affect his or my ability to communicate.
Many of us Deaf have "other issues."  We grow up used to seeing others with physical deformities.  Any time you get a group of 30 or 40 Deaf together there are usually a few that have something noticeably different about their bodies.
A somewhat sticky situation is that of hearing interpreter wannabes who have hand defects.
That is a bit like someone with a facial scar wanting to be an eyelash model.
Deafness (generally) is not a choice.  Becoming a professional interpreter is a choice.
Deaf people need to communicate with their hands.  Hearing people do not "need to" become interpreters. There are thousands of other jobs hearing people could do.
This fact leads to an important psychological difference in the level of distraction caused by a hand impediment. 


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