By: Mariam Janvelyan
Something really puzzling happened to me today. As a student at UCLA, I’m accustomed to the hustle and bustle of college life; walking across campus and having various individuals hand me flyers, ask for my support regarding a variety of different things, and asking me to sign up for their causes is a daily occurrence. I’ve also grown accustomed to curious glances when I walk around signing with my friends, as our ASL program is still new.
Now normally, I would be approached, asked to sign up for something, respond accordingly, and continue on my way. Today something different happened. Walking down campus with my friend, I made eye contact with one such individual, and she started to make her way towards us. I turned to my friend, who hadn’t yet noticed, and he switched to sign language, as we often do for practice. I responded in kind, looked back towards the girl with the flyers, and saw her stop dead in her tracks, slowly retrace her steps, and refuse to approach us.
Today, the hustle and bustle I had grown so accustomed to escalated to roaring chaos, as an uncomfortable truth rang loudly in my ears.
- She’s actually scared to approach us, because she thinks we’re Deaf.
- She’d rather lose a potential supporter than approach something that’s new to her.
- Deaf people experience things like this at an unfairly often rate.
Fascination, curiosity, and hesitation I can understand. There are hearing people who have never met a Deaf person before, so they wouldn’t know how to proceed. But fear is one thing I don’t understand. I’ve witnessed people turn to me with panic in their eyes when they realize the person I’m with is Deaf. I’d like to find these people and ask them to walk a mile in a Deaf person’s shoes. I’d like to watch as they realize the ignorance, Audism, and oppression they face on a daily basis, and the ways Deaf people combat those oppressors. I’d like to see as they become enthralled with the Deaf world, and expand the barriers of their mind to include this different, visual way of life, where every problem is somehow met with a solution, because Deaf people always have and always will find a way. All it takes to start a mile is one step. One step in someone else’s shoes. One step to come to the conclusion that fear isn’t acceptable. One step to jump over the threshold from one world to the next. To make new friends, to experience a new culture, and to communicate through your hands, face, body, and soul, not just your voice.
And after that mile comes the marathon.
This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.