Recently, a former classmate of mine, Austin Johnson, reached out to me to tell me that he likes reading the articles I write for HearingLikeMe. Johnson is hearing, so I found it interesting that he enjoyed reading my hearing loss articles. I envisioned the articles to be relatable for the hard-of-hearing community and informative for hearing people, but Johnson is closer to the deaf community than I imagined. He revealed to me that he grew up with two deaf parents and sign language is his first language. Children of deaf parents also known as children of deaf adults (CODA) have a different story to tell. Luckily for me, he agreed to take the time to answer some questions about what being a hearing child of two deaf parents.
Sign language was my primary language since before I can remember. Learning to speak wasn’t difficult for me either, especially because I already had two older brothers who were also hearing. Which might also spark the question, “Well, how did your brothers learn to speak?”
Well, my brothers had spent a lot of time with my grandma and various other family members, and they picked up talking just as normal as any other child would. When they were home with my mom, she turned on the television with the volume up, so they were able to pick up a verbal language at home also.
Even though I’m hearing, I’ve never felt like I wasn’t a part of the Deaf community. To be honest, I probably prefer Deaf people over hearing people! Actually, being a child of a Deaf adult is its own sub-culture, also known as CODA (Child of a Deaf Adult). So to answer your question, yes, I am close to the Deaf Community, very much so!
My mom said that it never really crossed her mind. The only thing that truly mattered to her was that she had a healthy baby. Truthfully, I do believe that some part of her would’ve liked to have had a Deaf child. It would’ve been special and without a doubt a different bonding experience, but it goes without saying that she loves her three boys more than anything in this world.
I get to be their voice, and I mean that very literally. It always was and is a very proud feeling when I could take something complex and translate it into something very clear, and understandable. I like to think that I’ve changed hearing people’s perspectives on Deaf people by helping them realize that the Deaf are normal people too, and the only barriers they have are the ones that are created by hearing people. Deaf people are capable of anything and everything. Deaf people are just that; they’re people.
“I like to think that I’ve changed hearing people’s perspectives on Deaf people by helping them realize that the Deaf are normal people too, and the only barriers they have are the ones that are created by hearing people.”
Honestly, growing up didn’t feel any different to me. I didn’t actually notice how different I was until I actually moved out of the house. For example, I didn’t realize how often I would watch television with no volume and closed captioning. I’m still guilty of doing this. There are more things I’m sure, but that’s the main one that comes to mind.
There is a constant struggle with blending both worlds. Without a doubt, there is an issue with accessibility. If I had the answer to a possible solution to this, believe me, the world would be a better place. I do believe it has gotten better but at a very very slow rate.
Read more: Celebrating the diversity of deafness
Knowing sign language has benefited me in more ways than most people can imagine. In all honesty, I believe that my knowledge of sign language is actually more beneficial to everyone else. I love being able to help people wherever I go. Helping in ways as simple as placing an order or helping my mom out at a doctor’s appointment. I love helping people, and if I can do that with sign language, then I absolutely will.
I sincerely wish that people knew how much Deaf people appreciate the effort in attempting to communicate with them. I mean genuinely communicating, not just grabbing a pen and a piece of paper. I promise you if you learn simple things like “please” and “thank you,” it will make their day.
“I promise you if you learn simple things like “please” and “thank you,” it will make their day.”
If it is in a business setting, I can guarantee you that they will come back, and they will also tell their friends about your establishment. “Why?” you ask. Well, it’s as simple as this. They felt normal and respected. Lastly, I think everyone should know that deaf people are just like you and me.