BYU hosted a silent weekend themed “I See Deaf People” on Friday, Nov. 13, and Saturday, Nov. 14. This provided an opportunity for people to share and experience deaf culture with American Sign Language individuals.
Friday night consisted of dinner and games, and Saturday brought on a wave of workshops to educate individuals on deaf and hearing cultural differences.
Chad Kennedy and Mike Brown, both American Sign Language instructors at the event, pointed out the specific cultural differences and how they have dealt with a variety of situations as deaf individuals.
Kennedy’s workshop focused on specific differences between the cultures. He pointed out the ease in which signers can communicate. Individuals who speak ASL can communicate through glass, at long distances and through mouthfuls of food.
Kennedy also said deaf individuals may “speak quietly” when signing, but are unaware of the noise they produce in everyday activities such as cleaning or cooking.
Casey Bond, an associate professor of American Sign Language at BYU, shared an experience growing up as a hearing child with deaf parents, also known as a Child of Deaf Adults.
“My mom would wake up in the morning and go downstairs and eat cereal. Upstairs in my room, I would wake up to the noise she was making, clanking her spoon around her bowl and slurping up her milky cereal. It would drive me crazy,” Bond said.
Pointing, asking personal questions or giving blunt remarks are also a part of deaf culture that the hearing world may find rude, but are acceptable and encouraged in deaf culture according to Brown. Eye contact is acceptable and kind in both cultures, but it is crucial in the signing world.
Brown added that although personal questions are acceptable, common questions that occur all the time for people in the deaf world concern driving, reading lips and reading braille.
“We can drive. That’s a silly question. Reading lips depends on the deaf individual; Some can, some can’t,” Brown said.
Bond laughs when people ask him if he reads braille, and he reminds them that he is not blind.
“When people find out you’re deaf they act like deer. Standing in the headlights staring awkwardly, avoiding and staring from a distance or even vanishing,” Brown said.
Benjamin Featherstone, a student at BYU studying psychology, said even though languages and cultures may be different, everyone is different and special in their own way.
“There is no need to treat others differently. Just be normal,” Featherstone said.