Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Switched at Birth

Monday night I watched "Switched at Birth" a new tv show about two families who's daughters were accidentally given to wrong families.  They find each other years later and that's where the show takes off.  The one daughter, Daphnie is Deaf.  Already in the first episode, we see how different hearing and Deaf people are.  

There are some good things about the show like featuring Deaf actors, sign language use between the Deaf characters, and Daphnie's mom supporting Daphine's culture.  But I do have some issues...

* Daphnie is played by a hearing actress. This confuses me.  It's like painting a white person's skin to play a Black person.  It's not the same and it's obvious.  Why not just hire a Deaf actress to play a Deaf role?  
*Daphnie lip reads.  Only a very very small percentage of Deaf people can read lips.  It takes skill and is a huge struggle in every conversation. And it is incredible how she never misses a beat. 
*I wish they would only have Daphnie sign and caption what she is saying.  abc family has such an opportunity to show the world Deaf culture and that culture includes American Sign Language.

But I am no expert.  So I asked my best friend Anna Pauling who is Deaf to clarify some common misconceptions regarding Deaf people.  I mean, she lives this life every day. (Don't feel stupid if you thought some of these things.  I was on this same street before I went to school in Deaf Studies.  We all start somewhere!)   

Why should we call deaf people Deaf?  Wouldn't it be political correct to say Hearing Impaired?
Many people are not sure what to call the deaf...just call us what we want to be called, Deaf.  To me Hearing impaired means someone looks at me as if I am broken.  I am confident in who I am as a Deaf person and the word deaf represents me.  Hearing impaired does not. 

Does your cochlear impant "fix" you or "cure" your deafness?
My cochlear implant does not fix me.  I made the decision to get the cochlear implant when I was 13 years old.  To many doctors I am considered a failure because I got the implant at a older age.  Many people assume that the cochlear implant will fix a lot of things.  The cochlear can help in some ways but it's not guaranteed. I can not hear perfectly and I never will.  I don't hear everything but I can see everything and my language (ASL) offers that. 

Would you ever want to be hearing? 
Before I answer this I want you to understand that majority of the people can hear.  It is considered "normal" and many do not understand why deaf people do not want to hear if they have the opportunity (cochlear implant -please remember this does not make you hearing).  Many people get upset if parents do not find a way for their child to hear.  As a deaf person, I am grateful for my parents to allow me to be who I am and did not force such a device or pressure to become "hearing".  I do not want to become hearing. Yes there are many challenges but I cannot forget the good things, I have a culture.  

Do all Deaf people lip read? 
Can you lipread? it confuses me that many people expect me to lipread.  Many hearing people do not lipread and yet they expect me to.  English is not my first language, if you can't lipread in your own language why am I expected to. 

How would you like hearing people treat you in daily interactions? 
treat me like a person.  Many people freak out and get nervous...relax. I will help you out.  Hearing people think they are helping the deaf but really we are helping you :) Just open up and listen. 

How would you like the media to portray your culture?
tough one...there are many people out there that views the deaf as something broken/disabled and many of them are not aware that there is a culture.  We do have a language.  We need someone who is involved with the deaf culture.  This is so important because they know the deaf world, struggles, norms, challenges, etc.  Also we need someone who's first language is ASL.  

Thanks Anna for sharing your thoughts and personal experiences.  Again, this is something that is important to me.  I hope you get the right idea about Deaf people and gained a little bit more understanding of the people around us.  And, as you watch the show, I hope you understand like all media, that this is not a perfect representation of Deaf people and Deaf culture.  

Feel free to leave any questions in your comments and maybe I'll have another Deaf friend guest on the blog to answer them...