I’d heard about it, but until about 30 minutes ago, I’d never really seen it.
I was on the bus, almost home. Three Deaf high school girls were at the front of the bus, signing to each other, seemingly having a fun conversation. Two other high school girls (different high school) came on the bus. They stopped near the Deaf girls. One touched the other, getting her attention, indicated the Deaf girls, and the two proceeded to edge away, pushing through the people in the packed bus to get away. Another girl was behind the two, and apparently was from the same high school. She gave the Deaf girls a look, then followed the others.
It is difficult to explain the faces on those three hearing girls’ faces when they looked at the Deaf girls. It was the kind of reaction I have seen people have towards mentally challenged people with slurred or otherwise unclear speech. Fear? Scorn…? I don’t know.
But I felt offended, as someone who signs. I wonder how come I never saw this before. Maybe it’s not so common? (But I’ve heard so many stories…) Maybe it’s because usually when I’m with Deaf, I don’t normally pay much attention to hearing people, and this time I just happened to be on the same bus as these girls, not having any conversation with them. Maybe the fact that one of these Deaf girls was very cross-eyed compounded the issue, but if I interpreted those expressions correctly, I don’t think that’s an excuse.
As I looked on those faces, I wanted to say, “Wai yu a gwaan so? Dem Def, dem no mad.”* But I didn’t. Nonetheless, I remembered what my JSL teacher said once: Hearing people are stupid. (She’s hearing, by the way; but culturally, very Deaf.) I can see why she’d say that now.
*Why are you behaving like that? They’re Deaf, not crazy.”