Category Archives: Learn Auslan Online

Typical stupid conversations about Deafness

This video is hilarious. Unfortunately, it’s so true. It’s not just interpreters who have these kinds of stupid, STUPID conversations with people who have never thought about what it means to be Deaf. Deaf people have them too… all the time. I can really relate to this. I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve had to respond to people like this lecturer, while trying to remain polite and gracious. I wish we had some basic education about Deafness for all school children, so that by the time they are grown up, they have sorted out how to deal with Deaf people and interpreters without being complete #!@%wits.

 

Don’t forget to help improve access to the arts!

If you haven’t already had your say and told the government how they can improve access to the arts for people who are Deaf/deaf, have a disability or mental health condition, now’s the time! Seriously, please don’t delay. This is SO important. We all have the opportunity to make a huge difference to the lives of so many Australians – let’s do it.

If you’ve only got five minutes, email Arts.Disability@arts.gov.au and say:

– Access needs to be built into all creative projects from the start, and this includes creation, promotion and presentation of arts projects. The government should fund this.

– Provide open captions for all public screenings of movies and laws to support this.

– Create an awareness campaign to remove the stigma, lack of respect, and discrimination experienced by people who are Deaf/deaf or have a disability or mental health condition.

If you’ve got more time, head to my blog post for more details:

 Here’s our chance to improve access to the arts!

If you define me

I’m Deaf. But being Deaf is not the most remarkable thing about me. People who know me will tell you that far more interesting is my creative drive, the fact that for holiday reading I’ll read a business text book and write my own precis, or that I built my own house when I was 22 and it has a huge food garden, including animals that I raise and kill myself for meat. In fact, there are lots of things more interesting about me than my Deafness.

But it can be really hard for people who meet me to get a handle on this. The Deaf thing leaps out at them. I’ve been knocked back from courses, where I would probably be the hardest working and  most devoted student, because the idea of catering for a Deaf student is just too overwhelming for the teacher, and all they can see is my Deafness (along with, I suspect, a bit of the old assumption that to be Deaf is to be stupid, and therefore it’s probably not even worth teaching me anyway).

My friend Anna recently studied her grad dip to become a teacher, and while all the other students in her course were granted their teaching licenses, she was required to present herself to the board. “Since you’re Deaf,” they said, “We think we should give you a restricted licence – so that you can only teach in schools with Deaf students.”

Knowing Anna as I do, this OUTRAGED me. To think that she was seen as only having value to Deaf students, but not to hearing students. Aside from being a terrific model for diversity, Anna is funny, smart, compassionate and highly entertaining. If I was a hearing student, I would learn bucketloads from having her for a teacher. And one of the main things I’d learn is that Anna’s Deafness is not her main talent. No – it’s her incredible wit and ability to hit the nail on the head, which would make learning fun and easy. But I’d also learn that Deaf people can be more than their label.

So, I’m asking you, next time you meet a person who is Deaf, or a person who uses a wheelchair, or has some other physical condition that seems remarkable, remind yourself that it’s probably not the most remarkable thing about them. And you won’t even know what IS remarkable, until you get to know them.

Please feel free to share this post or hang a print of this painting on your wall to raise awareness about this tricky issue. Giclee prints of this artwork are available in my shop.

Prints and artworks about Deafness

If you’d like some artwork on the wall that is for Deaf people, by a Deaf artist, and reflects Deaf values, you might like one of my prints. I have heaps of different images available and they include Deaf activism, Deaf experience and Deaf pride.

These prints are great for the lounge room wall, and would also suit spaces where services are offered to Deaf people – think Deaf units in schools, Deaf clubs/societies, audiology clinics, interpreting agencies and more.

If you want something striking, or a splash of colour, along with a great message, check out my prints here.

It is not my goal to be normal

it-is-not-my-goal-to-be-normal

When I was a child, my parents watched them patronise me, talking over-loudly with me, they noticed that if they told people I was deaf, they’d have to deal with their heartbreak and sorrow on my behalf. They’d watch them patronise me, talking over-loudly with simplistic language appropriate for a much younger child.

Eventually, they figured out it was better to zip their mouths about my deafness, and let them see, through interacting with me, that I was just like any other child – racing around the house with my siblings, spilling apple juice and playing hospital games with toilet paper for bandages. Later, they’d say, quietly like it was no big deal, “Oh, by the way, she’s a little bit deaf.”

They chose not to use sign language with me, figuring that the more ‘normal’ I seemed, the better I’d fit into the world and the more appropriately people would treat me.

I get why my parents made these choices for me. They did the best they could.

But there’s a flip side. I grew up thinking I was only a ‘little bit deaf’ and that it was my own fault that I didn’t concentrate hard enough to understand people. The entire burden of communication rested on my shoulders, as I struggled to make sense of the world through lipreading, with no accommodation by others. There was a subtle but definite pressure to be as ’normal’ as possible, and not to make waves or ask for help because of my deafness.

As an adult, I’ve discovered that by letting the world see I’m deaf, I can share the burden of communication with others, and I can relax more, instead of always being alert to the possibility of people speaking to me. Using sign language, I can chat in a group and it’s enjoyable and relaxing, unlike trying to lipread, which is basically impossible in a group setting.

Instead of straining to be something I’m not, by ‘passing’ as hearing, I choose to be me as I am – Deaf – and to set up my life to be as Deaf-friendly as possible. That makes my world smaller, more limited, but it also makes it more relaxing and enjoyable, and on the balance, that’s what I prefer and choose.

This piece has been sold.

Learn Auslan – Level 1 – American fingerspelling

I am often asked if sign language is universal.  It’s not.  Auslan came to Australia with English convict Betty Steele, who signed BSL (British sign language).  With years of isolation, Auslan and BSL have both evolved, so that while the languages are similar, they are now quite different.  The Americans got their sign language from France, and French sign language looks very different to Auslan, as the fingerspelling and many of the hand signs are done with one hand instead of two.

If you put two signing people in the same room who don’t know each others’ language, they will work out how to communicate with each other much faster than two hearing/speaking people would.  When I bumped into a group of Deaf women in France one time, despite me not knowing any French sign language and them not knowing any English or Auslan, we worked out how to communicate quite quickly.  Within half an hour we had moved on to abstract concepts like planned obsolescence.

Back to American fingerspelling… in America there is a larger population of Deaf people than in Australia.  They even have a Deaf university.  This means that their language has more opportunities to evolve than ours, and although some people are against this practise, in Auslan we often borrow signs from ASL (American sign language).  Also, several of these borrowed signs, and signs that are considered proper Auslan, are based on handshapes that come from the one-handed American alphabet.  It’s handy to know the alphabet in order to familiarise yourself with these shapes.

Some people who use Auslan will  spell with American sign language if they have only one hand available, because the other is busy holding a drink or something else.  However, when I went to America, I discovered that the actual American letter T is different from the way Australians sign T when they think they are using American fingerspelling!  There may be other letters that are different.  This video shows my best guess for the American alphabet, and the way my friends and I use American fingerspelling:


In the video there are two variations for the letter T – the first one shows how American people actually sign it.  The second one shows how Australians tend to sign it.