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Interview a Deaf Person:

A collection of transcripts of interviews of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people.

Bienenstock, Michael
Bonheyo, Bridgit
Ehrig, Brent
Galien, Terol
Kelsey, David
Rubery, Connie
Senter, Kim
Vicars, Belinda
Vicars, William

Note to readers: 
This next bit of discussion is a bit of a touchy topic.
To put it in perspective, you need to remember that other people's students are constantly requesting that I help them do their homework for them (instead of them doing their own homework).  Often they contact or approach me because their instructor has "required" them to interview a Deaf person. 
I try to always be available to every student (both mine and the students of other instructors), but, you can understand, after the first thirty or forty interviews a person starts to ask himself if the problem isn't the student, but rather it is the instructors who are assigning their students to go interview Deaf people -- instead of arranging for Deaf people to come to the classroom.
Putting the burden on a student to find a Deaf person to interview is a lazy and cheap way to teach.

In any case, below are several questions recently asked of me by somebody else's student and my answers.  They sent me the questions as an email. 

  Do you feel that sign language should be used with handicapped people?  Why or why not?
Response:  Yes.  Sign language enhances communication by either augmenting spoken communication or replacing it when it isn't available.  Sign language encourages and expedites cognitive development, especially if and when used prior to acquisition of verbal (spoken) language skills.

Question:  Should there be boundaries set with this communication?
Response:  Oh sure, there should be a few boundaries.  No using sign language while standing naked in line at the supermarket.  No using sign language while holding on to a vial of nitro glycerin. No sign language while holding TWO cups of piping hot coffee. No sign language....
Jeez! That question is whack.  Plus, you misspelled "boundaries" (but I corrected it for you).
I mean, that is like asking, "Should there be boundaries set on women?"

Question:  Do you feel that the hearing community has taken advantage of sign language to communicate with HC people?

Response:  [I just spell corrected "fell" to "feel." Advice: If you want interviewees to take you seriously, use "spell check."]
Sure, I fell, er, I mean feel Hearing people have "taken advantage" of ASL. But the phrase "taken advantage of" is really short sighted.  We need to look at the big picture.  I think that the more Hearing people that learn and start using ASL, the more opportunities there will be for Deaf people to prosper in more areas of business and commerce.  When more and more people learn and use ASL it becomes contagious and spreads and everybody wants to learn it. Thus more and more jobs will open up for both Hearing AND Deaf in ASL-related areas.

Question:  Any other comments.
Response:  Tell your Deaf Culture Teacher he owes me $20 for helping him teach his class.  (Requiring students to interview Deaf people is a form of "asymmetric instruction." (Shifting the instruction to a different time, place, or person). It is no different really from having a guest instructor come to your class and spend twenty (or more) minutes of their time with your students.  Your (college) instructor typically gets paid $60 an hour or so for student/teacher contact.  So, now I've invested 20 minutes (longer actually) in contact with one of his students, he should come teach my class for 20 minutes or pay me $20.  [Or stop requiring students to request unremunerated (unpaid) donations of time and expertise from the Deaf community].

Note:  Readers of this newsletter may feel that I've been overly harsh or rough in my replies to this student.  Ask yourself: "How much time did the student put into this situation?"  Did he or she offer to take me to lunch for my time? Did he or she even bother to spell check?  But that is not my real point.  I love helping students.  My comments are more directed toward the instructors out there who give their students assignments without providing appropriate avenues and methods to complete the assignment.

I knew an instructor once who required her ASL 2 students to each interview a Deaf person and RECORD IT ON VIDEO as proof that they did it. (This was back before cell-phones recorded video and for most students it was a major endeavor to find a video camera.)  That means 25 students are now going to go waste the time of 25 Deaf people and glean only a very, very small fraction of the information they could have gotten had they read a decent Deaf Culture book instead. [Or these days, they could watch vlogs, etc.] While many of these Deaf individuals won't mind doing the interview, many will do it out of guilt or some sense of not wanting to be a bad person when they would RATHER be chatting with their Deaf friends instead of chatting with a beginning level ASL student. Can you see it from the point of the Deaf person?  Sitting there patiently waiting for the Hearing student to struggle through sentence after sentence.   And it happens semester after semester.  My opinion is that if the ASL instructor wants his or her students to meet a Deaf person, the instructor should HIRE a Deaf guest speaker and PAY the guest for his or her time, (and include mileage!).  If the instructor wants his students to have one-on-one time signing back and forth with a Deaf person then the instructor should set up a lab and PAY a lab assistant to come sign with his students. Sending students to go out and "find" Deaf people is a cheap and lazy teacher's method of creating an ASL lab.


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