THROUGH DEAF EYES: LEARNING ABOUT DEAF CULTURE
By Aujene Jecole
When I was assigned to watch this documentary in class, I was thrilled to learn about the history of Deaf culture. I think it’s important to know the history of Deaf culture because it contributes to the foundation of using American Sign Language. Watching this documentary helped expose the beautiful pride upheld by the deaf community. It was also interesting to learn the background story of different people that were being interviewed. I even learned that the actress I watched on the TV show switched at birth was Marlee Matlin. Her attributes are a proud reflection of her belief of how being deaf allowed her the privilege to be a part of deaf culture.
The one of the most interesting things that touched my heart about this documentary where the personal stories people shared. I learned that ninety percent of deaf people have hearing parents. One of the people being interviewed shared their testimony of what it felt like being deaf in a society where signing was shameful. He described that in restaurants he would try to sign as little as possible. I thought to myself, why a collective of people would feel ashamed to sign. The history of deaf culture helped explain this. I was disappointed when it was revealed in the documentary that being deaf was viewed as an illness that needed to be cured. Alexander Bell pushed to outlaw sign language because he deemed it as a stagnate tool for learning oralism. By 1880 it was illegal to even use language. Learning that a language was banned in the United States of America, Land of the FREE was banning freedom to communicate using sign language. There are so many deaf people who could only express themselves through American Sign Language. When American Sign Language was banned, it took away the freedom of speech for the deaf community.
One of the most promising rebels in history for the deaf community occurred at Gallaudet University. The Deaf community grew faith and gained identity in who they were. The school wanted to be represented by a deaf President. Their request was ignored and then soon a collaboration of students decided to stand up for themselves. They developed awareness with signs, letters, media, and marches. Their movement had become so extravagant they even received a letter from the president of the United States! With the confidence to stay on their belief for fair representation they earned a deaf President to represent them!