It’s great to be back from a three-day weekend; July 4th is about celebrating our nation’s birthday and “independence.” That is clearly set forth in our Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” What can provide someone with more independence and means to their happiness than being able to communicate and provide for themselves via a job?
What about those “differently abled” individuals that can communicate and do anything a hearing person can, yet they have a different way of communicating. Every day assumptions are made about deaf and hard of hearing individuals. As promised in my last blog, we are revisiting the challenges this community faces. In the first part we talked about perceived expenses and negative labels, let’s now move on to communication myths about deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
Myth 1: All deaf people read lips.
This is probably the most persistent myth about deafness, but it’s not necessarily true. Remember, to most deaf people English is a second language (after sign language), and second languages can be very difficult to learn. Many deaf people are fluent at lip-reading, but some are not, and never learn to be.
Myth 2: Sign language is a universal language.
Contrary to popular belief, sign language is not universal — sign languages are as diverse as spoken languages. Sign language, in fact, is different region to region just as any spoken language.
Myth 3: Sign language is just mime and gestures.
Sign language is just like any spoken language, there are words and unique expressions as well as sentence structure and grammar. It does not follow the same grammatical rules and syntax as English.
Myth 4: All deaf and hard of hearing people can communicate with sign language.
This is the most common myth of all. Not all deaf and hard of hearing people can communicate in sign language.
Myth 5: Being deaf or hard of hearing is an indication of less intelligence.
Some people think the inability to hear means a lack of ability in many other things. However, this is not an indication a person who is deaf or hard of hearing is less intelligent than any hearing person. They may have difficulty in acquiring speech simply because they cannot hear the sounds and tones, but many deaf and hard of hearing people are employed in professional careers just like everyone else.
Myth 6: All deaf people can read so there is no barrier to communication.
The words and art of spoken languages are a second language to a deaf person. Being able to read requires the same amount of learning just like a hearing person, and as sign languages often have slightly different sentence structures and grammar, a deaf and hard of hearing person often will find it hard to read and comprehend fully without extensive practice.
Myth 7: Deaf people can’t drive a car.
Deaf people drive cars all the time. If you think about it, nothing about driving really requires you to be able to hear. After all, there’s a reason emergency vehicles have both sirens and lights.
Myth 8: All deaf people will benefit from a hearing aid.
There are varying degrees of hearing loss: moderate, severe, and profound, as well as different types of hearing loss. Based on the degree and type of hearing loss, a hearing aid may be of no benefit to someone who is profoundly deaf.
Communication and having a job are two things that can add to a person’s self-esteem and independence. Let’s not forget to celebrate everyone’s independence and be aware that all, men are created equal,” some might just be differently abled.
Claudia Magallan is the Disability Navigator for Workforce Solutions Workforce Solutions- Gulf Coast ensuring that customers with disabilities utilize all the services offered by Workforce Solutions. She has over six years of experience building relationships in the Houston Community and working with job seekers with barriers to employment.