April 7, 2023
Melissa Dove and Mary Pickering, Case Managers at Deaf Community Services of Easterseals Crossroads in Indianapolis, IN met with Gentry Park resident Ruth Chesmore to discuss Deaf Awareness Month.
Although Chesmore has friends who are hard of hearing, this was her first time meeting people who use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. Gentry Park offered classes on ASL, which Chesmore found difficult to learn. Pickering let her know that it usually takes a hearing person seven years to become fluent in sign language, though involvement with the community speeds up learning.
Without knowing ASL, a combination of writing and gesture suffice for communication between deaf and hearing individuals in most casual interactions. For situations such as a doctor’s visit an interpreter is usually required. Getting the attention of a deaf person can be done in a variety of ways: Flashing a light on and off; a gentle tap on the shoulder; a wave; tapping on the table or stomping on the floor (if appropriate in the situation).
A common theme in the discussion was the importance of community. Chesmore mentioned the celebrations and engagement she experienced at Gentry Park, as well as the everyday assistance that would otherwise be unavailable if she lived alone. Similarly, community centers are important for the wellbeing of deaf people. Both Dove and Pickering come from large families where being deaf is genetic, but that is a rarity. Only 10 percent of deaf people are born from a deaf family. Most deaf people are born to a hearing family or become deaf later in life. Without a supportive community, this can be very isolating.
The pandemic affected a lot of aspects of life: Masks made it impossible to read lips or facial expressions and the closure of community centers heightened people’s sense of isolation. The lack of human connection led to feelings of loss, loneliness, and depression. Thank goodness for Zoom! Technology has helped the deaf community in other ways, too, making transactional encounters like ordering food easier by using mobile applications or touch screens at restaurants.
Dove and Pickering leave us with this piece of advice for Deaf Awareness Month: Be aware and open-minded of the variety of the deaf community. Deaf people don’t need to be pitied or fixed, but rather supported. There are a variety of local and nationwide organizations that people can support that help advocate and build community. Dove mentioned specifically the Indiana School for the Deaf and the non-profit advocacy organization Indiana Association for the Deaf.
For the full conversation, click here.
Saint Charles, Missouri-based Arrow Senior Living manages a collection of communities that offer varying levels of care including independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Each and every senior living community supports residents by focusing on dignity, respect, and quality of life. The programs and amenities offered are selected to provide only the highest standard of quality and comfort.
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