Monday, September 12, 2011

Subtle Discrimination

Subtle Discrimination of (the) Deaf 
Most of the time, I do find a lot of humor from my experiences and laugh them off. Most of the time, people do not intentionally do things to be rude, and it becomes an opportunity for me to educate them in a very positive way. People normally have no idea what to do when it comes to dealing with Deaf people especially in areas where Deaf people are not well populated or well-known. More often than not, hearing people do pass through their lives without ever meeting anybody who is culturally Deaf.

My experiences with subtle discrimination have certainly has made me more understanding and patient as a person because more often than not; hearing people really have no clue and have no intention to be mean. It just happens and I call this "Subtle Discrimination"

Deaf people have telephones. It looks very much like a webcam. It sits on top of our TV. Then the picture will show up on our TV. View the pictures down below and you will get a gist of what I am trying to say. 


We Deaf people do communicate with hearing people by using our videphone. It is done through a relay interpreter. A relay interpreter shows up on the screen (as seen above) and translates for you while speaking  to a hearing caller and signs to you what your hearing caller is saying to the interpreter. However, every time when I call a hearing person through an interpreter; the interpreter introduces himself/herself by stating their business name and number, and it does gets on my nerves. You will see why. 

This morning; I called a new vet clinic since we have recently moved, and our cats really needed to have their check-ups quite badly. I got online with a relay interpreter, and the interpreter called the vet clinic. The interpreter introduced himself by saying Hello, this is SVRS interpreter #4597, and I am interpreting for a person who uses sign language. Then the receptionist hung up on me. 

Nice. Really nice. How annoying. I was tempted to be petty and yell at the receptionist. Then I realized that the lady probably had no experience by dealing with Deaf people on the phone through their relay interpreters. It was not quite her fault. I sighed and told the interpreter to call back. 

The interpreter called back and said, "Hello, I am SVRS interpreter #4597 and I am not a telemarketer. I am interpreting for a Deaf person. Do not hang up." The receptionist apologized and continued to make an arrangement for me to bring my cats. 

Is this a form of discrimination? Yes and....No. Yes because it is a form of Audism (discrimination against Deaf, & Hard of Hearing; will go into details some other time). But is it awful form of discrimination? No.  How can you hold this against someone who honestly does not know and will learn from it? It is annoying, yes, and it can get on my nerves especially if I am in a dire need to get a hold of someone, but you know what? This is more of a honest mistake stemming from inexperience of dealing with relay interpreters.

My next experience is on a very fine line of  having a desire to share common ground with a Deaf person and being too ludicrous.

I am sitting in the library when a woman approaches me. She is in her middle 30s. She sits across from me and looks at me. Sensing that she wants to tell me something; I stop studying and look up and smile at her to show her that I am available for a small chit-chat. She picks up on that cue. She raises her index finger as to tell me to hang on a minute. She digs through her purse and pulls out a picture of a dog. She lays the photo on the table and nods her head vigorously. I am confused and unsure what she is trying to say so I wait politely. She points at the picture of a dog, which I have assumed it is her dog, and she points at her ear. I finally get what she is trying to say. I write on a notepad, "Your dog is Deaf?" She takes the notepad and writes, "YES YES. I am so excited that I have met someone who is Deaf because my dog is Deaf. I know what it is like to be Deaf now!" I sit there, trying not to drop open my jaws, and make it obvious that I am irritated.  

Oh really. Just because your dog is Deaf doesn't mean you know what it is like to be Deaf. A Deaf human being is entirely different from being a deaf animal. I am sure this lady is trying to be nice, and to find a common ground. But come on, owning a Deaf dog doesn't mean you are a pro about Deaf culture and Deaf issues. 

My last experience is now pure stupidity. This has happened to me. This has happened to so many Deaf people.


I am sitting in the booth at a restaurant with two of my hearing friends. We are signing when the waitress comes to greet us. She hears one of my friends speak so she turns to the friend and scribbles down the order. Then she looks up at my second friend and me. She is unsure which one of us is Deaf. A moment passes. My second friend sighs and speaks up. The waitress seems relieved. After my second friend's order has been taken; the waitress looks at me then looks away to my other two friends. She asks my friends what I wanted. I tap on the table to get her attention and she looks at me. My first friend says, "I am not interpreting for her. She is capable of taking her own order. So look at her." 

The waitress looks at my second friend and my second friend looks away. I open my menu to point at what I want to order. The waitress seems confused. I tapped at the item I want again and bring the menu closer for her to see. The waitress grows antsy and isn't writing anything down. I am getting annoyed. Can this waitress read? Then a light goes off in her eyes. She claps her hands and tell me to wait. She runs to somewhere and return with a menu. I am sitting here with the menu in my hands and I am trying to understand why she is bringing me a different menu.

She drops a menu in front of me and grabs other menu I have in my hands. Now I am irritated, but I don't show it. I pick a different menu in front of me. To my dismay; the menu had nothing but raised bumps beneath the pictures. There are no typed words. Just bumps. My second friend opens her mouth to speak and I tell her to be quiet. She closes her mouth. My first friend smirks, knowing what I am about to do, and leans back in the seat.

I turn to the waitress and put on a biggest smile I can muster up. I begin to write on a piece of napkin then show it to the waitress:

I AM DEAF. THIS MEANS I AM UNABLE TO HEAR. MY DEAFNESS DOES NOT AFFECT MY EYES. I AM PERFECTLY CAPABLE OF SEEING. IF I AM UNABLE TO SEE THEN I WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN POINTING AT THE ITEM I WANTED FROM A DIFFERENT MENU. FROM THE LAST TIME I CHECKED; ONLY BLIND PEOPLE CAN BENEFIT FROM READING BRAILLE....THANK....YOU....VERY...MUCH! 

To be always asked the last one to order out of my circle of friends when we go out to eat does not bother me. To ask someone else to interpret for me while I am taking order does not bother me. I can gently correct this by showing that I can take my own order. This is often a honest mistake and really does depend on each Deaf person's preference. Some Deaf people like to be interpreted. Some Deaf people prefer to take order by themselves by pointing at an item on the list. Some Deaf people can speak for themselves. 

However, to be given a Braille menu is really insulting. How can one mistake being Deaf to being blind especially if a Deaf person has already been reading other people's signs and exhibit no signs of blindness (Cane, name tag alerting someone that he is deaf-blind, and using tactile sign language)? Yet this continues to happen to many of my Deaf friends including myself. 

If you are guilty of subtle discrimination then do not fear. Many Deaf people are pretty cool and correct you without making you feel bad about it. Most of the time, we get that it is a honest mistake. No big deal. 

But...just make sure you don't give a Deaf person a braille menu though. 

1 comment :

  1. Wow. I can understand why the receptionist at the vet clinic hung up, granted she probably shouldn't have because the relay interpreter could have been anyone (like a client!). Telemarketers usually ask for the vet specifically. So... she should have waited to hear the interpreter finish talking. But the last two examples made my jaw drop. I had to laugh at the shock of it. You have much more patience than I would. I am so sorry that some people are just down-right ignorant.

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