A Deaf perspective

Stephen Slevinski slevin at PUDL.INFO
Mon Mar 29 16:39:14 UTC 2004

Hi Adam,

Congrats on the thoughtful mom.  She really did you a great service.

My name is Stephen, and I am an offensive hearing person who thinks he knows
what's good for deaf, and I ª>  also a hotshot programmer (somewhat).

My problem is that I ª>  very opinionated.  And I ª>  not afraid to state my
opinion.  However, I ª>  always open to different opinions.  And I can easily
change my views if the other person can help me understand.

This list has already helped me with several ideas and concepts.  So thanks.

Before my exposure to deaf, I used sign language with my first child.  I
read a book called Baby Signs.  The book suggested it was possible to
communicate with your child visually before the voice developed, because the
hand and the eye develop quicker than the ear and the mouth.  The book didn
ª²  promote ASL.  It suggested signs for simple concepts the child should be
able to understand.  But the book stressed looking for signs that the child
might use.

The first sign my son used was  œ> ore m    Open hand, palm up, with the index
finger of the other hand tapping the middle of the palm.  I even have a
video of my son using this sign for the first time.  The signs worked great.
My son used over 30 signs to help communicate.  Once he could speak, the
signs slowly faded.

My exposure to the deaf started with my wife.  She was working with deaf
children and half of the staff members were deaf.  She learned sign language
from one of the staff.  They met every week and practiced at a bar.

Once day my wife invited some of the staff over to our home.  And that was
the first time I ever met a deaf person.  I was amazed that deaf were
allowed to drive.  How could they hear a horn?  I was also insulted because
the deaf woman who taught my wife to sign didn ª²  use her voice, even though
I knew she could voice.  I later found out that her husband considered
himself Deaf, and didn ª²  think that deaf should use their voice.  So she was
supporting her husband.

So I was curious.  Why would someone choose to make communication difficult?
The whole night I saw sign language and mime and I understood nothing.

Later I found a 26 hour ASL course on cable.  I watched and practiced 3
times a week.  The next time people from her work came over, they were
surprised that I could sign.  I remember I signed  œ¬ ave many sticks, good
fire tonight.

Û( ater, I was still curious about the deaf and also about the Deaf.  I was
really curious about interpreters.  I didn ª²  understand why I needed to look
at the signer when they spoke, but they didn ª²  need to look at me when I
spoke.  That ª±  not fair.  I also didn ª²  understand why the Deaf didn ª²
consider themselves to be handicapped.

Anyway, I searched online to understand.  I first found Alexander Graham
Bell and his involvement with the deaf.  He thought that the best way to
help the deaf was oralism.  It made sense to me.

I then found SignWriting.  A lot of ideas fell into place.  I then found
Signed Exact English, which I quickly rejected.  I read stories about the
pain and confusion that oralism can cause. I was beginning to reject
oralism.  I then found out about the protest at Gallaudet over the desire
for a deaf president.  I didn ª²  understand why the deaf would judge a person
of their ears, rather than their character and ideas.  Then I learned about
the origins of ASL, and how the deaf educator Laurent Clerc (I think)
demonstrated that deaf could be educated by showing that they could read and
write.  Laurent Clerc used sign language to educate the deaf.

That ª±  when I understood that ASL should be primary, and English secondary.
I also realized that while SignWriting was not required for literacy in
English, it could be a great tool to help the student develop literacy
skills of the mind. This would make literacy in English even easier.

And finally, I found a website that was heavily biased toward English
literacy for deaf.  It was also very negative towards interpreters.  It ª±
called Deafwin and the address is http://www.deafwin.com.  He supports
Written Communication.  He also has a great idea for radio for the deaf.  I
think he has some amazing ideas.  He has been rejected, and I ª>  not sure if
it ª±  because of his ideas or because he is hearing.  I do know he keeps
trying years and years after he should have given up.  I admire him.

And when I discussed some of the things I had found, I was appalled to learn
that no one I talked with knew anything about SignWriting.  They also
discounted the value of English.

That ª±  when I decided I had a unique perspective for the deaf that I needed
to share.  So I created PUDL, a nonprofit idea supporting deaf literacy in
ASL and English.  I ª>  trying to make tools, information, and options
available for deaf.

One problem that I have is the way I write my opinion.  While I may be
convicted, I am not the one making the choices.  So I sometimes need to
remind myself that I do not have the answers, but options.  It seems at
least two people misunderstood my stand on English literacy.  When I reread
my post, I found a problem in tone, but not in substance.  I fully support
literacy in English, and I understand that deaf will learn English
differently than hearing.  I also know that literacy in English is difficult
because of the many problems with the education system for deaf.  However, I
will not back down from the position that most deaf should learn English.

With PUDL, I ª>  trying to promote an option for deaf.  It promotes the idea
of literacy.  Literacy is best started when you ª° e a child, but it ª±  never
to late to become literate.  A good education should exist that helps
everyone develop literacy, but one size does not fit all.  Also the best
education for deaf to develop literacy doesn ª²  exist yet (or it is not
widely promoted). However, we will only know what works when it works. And
here ª±  my suggestion.

PUDL ª±  path for literacy
1) ASL to develop language skills of the mind
2) SignWriting to develop literacy skills of the mind
3) SignWriter to improve literacy skills
4) ASL Gloss to learn English vocabulary without English grammar or
5) Written Communication to develop English fluency

Anyway, that ª±  a little about me,

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