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 "How to be Deaf"


A community member writes:

Dr. Vicars
Hello! I'm sending this email in hopes that you see it and respond, but I definitely do not expect you too (you seem like a busy man). Due to a neurological disorder I have lost all hearing. My hearing loss started about a month ago and that was when I knew I needed to learn ASL. I started learning through your lessons on YouTube and they have been very helpful. Do you have any tips maybe on how I can learn ASL quickly and effectively? It's becoming increasingly difficult to communicate with my wife, family and coworkers. Thank you in advance for all you have helped with already!

With gratitude,
[Name removed to protect this person's privacy.]


If you have a chance to do so, watch the movie "Sound of Metal."

Then note the critical mistake in the movie where "Lou" played by Olivia Cooke drops off Ruben (the main character played by Riz Ahmed) at the "Sober House" for individuals who are Deaf.

The problem here is that Ruben is expected to learn sign language while (the equivalent of) his wife does not.

You are on a journey to a new world. In that new world communication takes place visually. If your family chooses to not learn to communicate visually (whether via decision, procrastination, or lack of effort) you and your family will find yourselves in two different worlds.

Set a goal to have "the discussion" with your loved ones wherein you make it clear to them that you are going to be living in this new world. Invite them to join you by becoming fluent in sign language along with you. Then ask them to commit the 1,200 or so hours of their life that it will take to become fluent. Watch their expressions and then their actions and let it sink in whether or not you have in fact lost your family along with your hearing -- or whether there is a chance that through a lot of effort and persistence you will all reach a point where visual / gestural communication becomes easy and generally effortless.

Otherwise decide if you are content with texting, lipreading, and being generally isolated and left-out of voice-centric family functions for the rest of your life -- sitting at parties, pretending to laugh at jokes that you didn't get, asking for repetition, and being informed that they will tell you later (and rarely do).

If you are not content with that life, and if your family is not willing to seriously dive in and join you in learning sign language you are then left with the options of:

1. Being discontent and lonely the rest of your life.

2. Forming a new family.*

*(A new "family" may consist of a new set of close friends with whom you can communicate freely).

My goal here isn't to be harsh. It is to be realistic and direct.

I have simply seen the effects on families too often over the past three decades to pretend that sudden onset significant hearing loss is anything other than a life changing event. If those around you do not choose to make the necessary changes with you then it becomes a family disrupting event.

You have certain legal rights in regard to workplace accessibility. Depending on the size and nature of your workplace you may be legally entitled to something called "CART" (communication access real-time translation). CART is a form of real-time stenography that provides real-time captioning of what is being said in your environment. Real-time captioning is increasingly available via human-assisted computer speech recognition transcription. Check with your workplace's office of Equal Employment Opportunity.

You may find yourself needing employment retraining to enable you to continue in the workforce. If so, consider reaching out to your state's department of employment services or vocational rehabilitation office. You may qualify for funding for assistive technology and/or tuition assistance.

As far as tips on how to quickly and effectively learn ASL, see below:

How to use ASL University to learn sign language for free:
1. Visit https://Lifeprint.com and become familiar with the ASL University website.

2. Bookmark the official ASLU YouTube master playlist:

3. For quick reviews (to prevent memory extinction) bookmark the "Signs" channel playlist page:

4. If you use a desktop or laptop computer you can look up signs using this page: https://www.lifeprint.com/search.htm

5. If you use a mobile device you can look up signs using this page:

6. If you can't find a sign after using the search options at Lifeprint.com then consider applying to join the Lifeprint-ASLU Facebook group and asking your question there. See:

7. Go through the ASLU Lessons for free:

Other tips:
* Borrow an armful of sign language books from your library and read them all.

* Get a pocket dictionary of ASL and put it in your back pocket every time you go out. Then when you are standing in line at a grocery store or any other (safe / appropriate) place whip out your book and learn or review a few more signs.

* The same goes for ASL Apps. Some are really bad but there are quite a few decent ones now too. Put one or more on your phone and review ASL during spare moments using your phone.

* If you can afford to do so, and have young children, hire a Deaf nanny.

* Hire a Deaf tutor to come to your house one or more times a week to practice signing with your family. Feel free to use the ASLU Curriculum as your lessons and have the tutor drill you on the practice sentences. You can check with your State's association for the Deaf for referrals or simply take out a help wanted ad. If preferred you can meet at the library or some other appropriate place.

* Choose a minimum of one day a week in which no one in your family is allowed to voice in common areas. Then start bumping it up to more often as their skills increase.

* Go on silent dates with your partner wherein no voicing is allowed by either of you. Bring an ASL dictionary along and/or your phone to look up signs.

* If you are religious, consider finding and attending a Deaf church.

* Take an ASL class at your local college and then ask the instructor if you can sit in on other sections to increase your exposure and speed up your language acquisition.

* After the pandemic is over and/or immunizations are available and if you have $2,995 that you can part with you may be interested in participating in a one-week hyper-immersion. At this time there are none scheduled but a person may request to be placed on an interest list by emailing me at my contact info. Comments, questions, or suggestions are always welcome. To contact Dr. Bill Vicars, see: https://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/pages-layout/contact.htm
For information about the hyper-immersions see: https://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/topics/hyper-immersion-(asl-immersion).htm

* Start watching the news in ASL. There are many fine Deaf newscasters that can be found by doing a search for "Deaf News" and similar terms.

* Probably one of the best things if you have ten bucks to spare you could do is subscribe to the ASLU subscription site: http://asl.tc
(For information see: https://lifeprint.com/asltc/ ). Then set a goal to complete "Lesson 1" within 24 hours. Once you get started you will get hooked and learn an amazing amount very quickly.

Warm regards,

- Dr. Bill
ASL University.










  Recommended Book:  "How to be Deaf" by Rosie Malezer

To order a hard copy, visit: http://www.amazon.com/How-be-Deaf-Rosie-Malezer/dp/1530118115


From the author:

"After more than 40 years, living as a hearing woman in a hearing world, I woke up one day without sound. Being diagnosed as profoundly Deaf, I realized that I now lived in a world which I never knew existed. Suddenly, I was bullied, laughed at, put in the "too hard" file and abandoned by those I once proudly called "my friends."

With my rights having been taken away by the government, being told that I was unteachable, unemployable, and then threatened with arrest for talking too loudly in public, I learned the meaning of Audism and Surdophobia. I also learned to stand up and be proactive.

This is the book I wish had been available to me when I first woke up to a world of silence. In a way, I've written it for my younger self as well as others who have lost or are losing their hearing. I share it in the hopes of softening the impact of such a hard transition. Going from hearing to Deaf really knocks the wind out of you, but not for the reasons you would expect."

- Rosie Malezer








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You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University  
ASL resources by Lifeprint.com    Dr. William Vicars