Saturday, April 7, 2007

How Deaf people should approach hearing people

UPDATED: The video clips' sizes were modified for a better video quality. The clips are uploaded into to make them into one video clip. The message in the video clip remains the same.

UPDATED: I just added a text transcript to this post. Hope it helps some of you to understand my message better.


Hello. My name is Eric Babb. This is my first video clip on my vlog. I'd like to discuss about an article that I read last summer. The article's topic was about how Deaf people should approach hearing people on a daily life. This article was very interesting.

The article said normal hearing people generally deal with other hearing people through their spoken language. For example, there was a hearing employee working as a cashier at a store. The cashier saw a customer walked in the store. The hearing cashier greeted customers with the usual "Good afternoon, how can I help you today..." This means the cashier expected the customer to reply back back to the cashier in a spoken language. The customer replied back to the cashier in the same spoken language saying "I'm doing fine. I need your help with different issues." That is how hearing people deal with each other daily.

Ok. If there was a deaf customer in the same picture. The deaf customer walked in the store. The hearing cashier had been dealing with different customers through their spoken language all the day. The hearing cashier saw the deaf customer walked by him. The hearing cashier did the usual greeting to the deaf customer by asking the customer "How can I help you?", "Do you need any help?", or other ways to greet them. The deaf customer didn't reply back to the cashier in any spoken language. The hearing cashier puzzled and assumed that maybe the customer didnt hear him because of a noisy enivornment. So the cashier spoke a bit louder. The customer still didn't reply back to the cashier. The deaf customer kept on walking and noticed something at the corner of the deaf customer's eyes. The deaf customer saw the cashier moving their lips and realized that the cashier was talking to him through a spoken langauge. The very next step deaf people, in the general, do is informing a hearing person that he/she is deaf by pointing their ears, using a body gesture asking the hearing person for a pen and a piece of paper, moving their mouth to tell them that he/she cannot speak, or use many other methods to inform them that he/she is deaf.

From my point of view, the 1st 3 approaches should not be used by a deaf person. I'll explain you why.

Okay. When a deaf person uses the "pointing to ears" approach to a hearing person, the hearing person becomes puzzled and normally dont catch the body gesture at their first attempt. Then the hearing person realizes that the person is deaf and starts to feel pity for the deaf person. The "pointing to your ears" approach would make a deaf person downgrade themselves to a less person and upgrade a hearing person to a "better" person because of their ability to hear. The hearing person pities the deaf person and thinks that the deaf person is no good. The "pointing to ears" approach draws hearing people focuses on the deaf person's ability to hear negatively. The ability to hear shouldn't be matter and needs to be thrown out of the picture.

If a deaf person tells a hearing person that they cannot speak, it means the approach draws hearing person's focus to the deaf person's ability to speak negatively. The approach encourages a hearing person to pity the deaf person because they cannot speak.

The "a pen and a piece of paper" body gesture means a deaf person has to put all of their efforts to simply communicate with a hearing person. It is a hassle for them.

The 1st 3 approaches are not the best ideal approaches for us. The 1st 3 approaches should not be used by a deaf person at all. The article, that I read last summer, made a good suggestion. It explains that in the general deaf people at a deaf-related events usually use American Sign Language (ASL) to each other since it is a common language at deaf-related events. On the other hand, a hearing person usually speaking to another hearing person through a spoken language. It means ASL and spoken English functions equally for both of the groups. If a hearing person choose to speak in their native language, a deaf person should be able to choose to sign in their native sign language too. Both of their native languages are equivalent to each other.

I know that many hearing people don't know how to sign which is fine because deaf people, in the general, don't know how to speak too. Whenever a hearing person speaks to a person, the hearing person generally expects that person to reply back in the same spoken language. A deaf person should do the same thing by signing to a person and expects that person to reply back in the same sign language too.

So if a hearing person speaks to a deaf person and expects the deaf person to speak back to the hearing person, the deaf person should reply to the hearing person in their sign language and expect the hearing to reply back in the same sign language. Of course, the hearing people would be confused and puzzled if a deaf person signs to them because the hearing people use a spoken language daily and all the sudden someone just used a sign language to the hearing person instead of using a spoken language. That created a confusion for the hearing person.

Creating a confusion for them is a good thing. Because it will lead them to a curiosity in your sign language. It also shows them your confidence and your pride to be a deaf person. There is no shame to be a deaf person. The ability to hear should not matter. You should be proud to use ASL as your language as much as hearing people are proud to use spoken English as their language.

The article suggested me to use that approach and I was really curious if that approach really does work. So I went to Home Depot to buy a measurement tape on the same day. I went in a Home Depot store and saw a hearing employee walking by me. I went to that hearing employee and signed directly to him by saying "Hello. I need your help to find a measurement tape." That hearing employee looked at me with a puzzling look on his face because I didn't speak with my voice and used my hands to speak with him. He couldn't understand me because he didn't know how to sign. Then he realized that I am deaf who uses a sign langauge. I continued to sign to him as I expected him to reply back to me in a sign language. He used a body gesture to tell me to wait while he was pulling out his notepad from his pocket.

I was amazingly surprised that he was making efforts by taking out his notepad himself so he could communicate with me through his notepad. In the past, I always had to make efforts to communicate with other hearing people through a pen and a piece of paper. Now the table turned around to him and it made him to make efforts instead of me which was really nice.

Anyway. The hearing employee wrote on his notepad and it said "Hello, how can I help you? I am sorry that I can't sign." I was amazingly surprised that he actually apologized to me that he doesnt know how to sign. I remember from my childhood years to today, I had to point my ears to "apologize" to hearing people that I cannot hear. I had to apologize to them many times. But with the hearing employee at the Home Depot, it's totally opposite. He apologized to me that he didn't know how to sign which was really nice. So I went ahead and communicated with him through his notepad and went on with my measurement tape hunting. He helped me to find a measurement tape. That experience went beyond my expection.

I noticed that the attitudes between the old approach and the new approach are so different. With the old "pointing to ears" approach, you end up getting pities from them. With the new "signing to them directly" approach; you end up getting respects from them and having them to put their efforts in communicating with me. Which approach do you think is better? Of course, the new approach is a lot better than the old approaches.

From now on, I will not use the "pointing my ears" method or use the "a pen and a piece of paper" method anymore. I will sign to hearing people directly to shake their world. I totally love to see their facial expressions after I shake their world. But the bottom line is it is really nice to create a curiosity from them. I am glad that the article introduced that approach to me. I thanked the article for teaching me the new approach.

If you have any suggestion, know any better approach, would like to share your experiences, or would like to give me some feedbacks; help yourself to add your comment by clicking the link below the video clip. I'd really like to discuss about this topic. Im looking forward to seeing your comments.

Thank you.


Mira said...

I agree deaf should do that.
Would be nice Closed Captioned is provided =)

Eric Babb said...

Hi Mira,

Here is my response to your comment.


J.J. Puorro said...

Hi Eric,

A few comments:

1.) Welcome to the Deaflogsphere!

2.) Interesting approach, I would like to see a link to that article if possible? Also, I have used that approach before with various of results. Sometimes folks just freeze, LOL.

3.) FYI, google video has an off/on button for CC's.

4.) I understand why you find CC'ing time consuming...I don't blame you.

5.) As for the transcript, I strongly encourage it. We do have some Deaf-blind readers here who rely on it. A suggestion: Instead of a lengthy transcript, perhaps a brief one paragraphy synopsis? Example:

"Eric discussed an article written in the paper last summer that suggested that Deaf people sign directly to hearing people when they first meet. He discussed how he read the article and tried that approach with success when he went to Home Depot searching for a tape measure. He also discussed how it put Deaf and hearing people on equal ground."

Just an example...

6.) keep vlogging!

Kelly said...

That is excellent idea! Definitely, we, Deaf people, should do that. Next time I go out to the store, I will try that. I am curious to see what her/his reaction will be!

Anonymous said...

Article by whom? Umm ... I am gonna give it try. Many people often apologized after I told them I am Deaf. Ugh I don't need pity. Congrats your very first vlog tonite. DS

LaRonda said...

Eric, what an outstanding topic for your first vlog! I was really impressed with the article you chose to talk about and to test out. I love the empowered feeling and respect that a deaf person would feel rather than feeling pitied. The persepctive shift is wonderful!

Thanks for an intelligent first vlog!

~ LaRonda

Eric Babb said...

Hello JJ and Anonymous,

Unfortunately, I didn't save the link to the article. I really wish I saved the link or even printed it out. As I mentioned in my video clip, I saw the article last summer which is almost a year ago. That approach really sticks to my mind and I thought I'd share it with you guys.

Let me know if you like the approach. :)


C said...

yes, i notice that if deaf people take the initiative to approach a store clerk and sign, more and more store people are customer orientated and more and more seem to be mindful of differences and needs, thus, they will more likely, than ever before to go to great lengths to please the customer and that includes deaf people. My husband does that all the time and I am amazed how many will respond favorably. Yes, still few who cringe and look helpless and look away...looking for their coworker "help"! lol

Remember, key word: Customer satisfaction

Lantana said...

How nice for you (the 2nd vlog), I can imagine how encouraged you must have felt!

For myself, over many years, I have to admit that I avoid the big box stores, like Lowes and HOme Depot because of the directions that I might need when I cannot find something I am looking for. SOME of the staff will happily lead you to the item you are looking for, but others will mumble and gesture, which of course, communicates nothing to us. I guess we deafies just have to keep on truckin, perhaps eventually all the staff in these stores will have enough experienceand/or training (compassion?) to deal with ALL KINDS of public, not just the ones that can speak and hear.

I recently wrote in my blog, Lantana's Latitude about what a difficult time I had during Spring Break with my grand daughter because being involved with the public seemed much too complicated and it all plainly wore me out! I do not mind when a clerk asks me if I "found everything", or "how are you?" but when they ask off the cuff questions, I become irritated. I do not see why I have to give my zip code and/or my telephone number. (Particularly when I have already made reservations in advance!) If I tell them that this is "private" they will lable me as an oddity. We deafies do not need that label. And what about the other people in the same line who are tapping their foot hoping that "we" will make it quick? 'Seems to me that clerks, tellers, etc. should make it all as simple as possible, without too many questions (that expect an answer!)

Thank you for bringing this up, I agree with you 100%.

Goodness, you sign fast! Or did you have your camera speeded up? Your vlog was a challenge for me to keep up with!

Sincerely, Lantana
Lantana's Latitude

Eric Babb said...


Nope, it wasn't my camera speed. I normally sign fast when I express from my mind freely. I apologize if it was a challenge for you to keep up with me. I'll try my best to sign a bit slower if my mind allows me to do that. ;)

- Eric

drmzz said...

Paradigm shift. I like your story. Glad you tried that out. I tried that several months ago, inspired by Deafhood. Keep on vlogging.

Sonny James said...

Great VLOG! I've always sign to hearing people and make them work for me, not the other way around. I will send your VLOG to other people to learn the RIGHT way to handle hearing people in stores, restaurants and et cetera....

Anonymous said...


I totally agree with you and I like your suggested approach so we Deaf won't have to become "inferior" to Hearing people but to show them that we are just as equal as other hearing people.

However, I have one question... After I realize someone at the store was trying to be helpful, by speaking to me, asking me if I need help, then I could sign ASL to him/her without trying to speak, or gesture or writing on a notepad. If the hearing worker discover that I am Deaf, generally, they would felt awkward since they don't know how to sign to communicate with me or to help me with what I need.. Usually they continued to speak to me even after the fact he or she just learned that I am Deaf, saying, "Can you read lips?", or saying "Oh, I am so sorry... blah blah" and then wave "Bye" to me, trying to walk away from me. What should I do about those people who apparently didn't want to deal with me after they discovered that I am Deaf? Let them go and continue with my shopping on my own or what? I could write on paper if I really need help with something, but this would make them to "look down" on me and I don't want that.

Any suggestion?

Matt Jamison

Susan said...

Hi Eric,

welcome to vlog world!

I enjoyed what you shared, makes me think that we should be proud of our language, of who we are...

I used to say (lip pattern with mime), "I'm sorry, I can't hear, you have pen paper?" and it always makes me feel uncomfortable to say that... why apologise?? is being deaf a disadvantage? NOT! but from the way I go about it, they would think so...

The approach you shared is a natural approach, I look forward to trying this in the future. And enjoy the reactions of hearing people!

It is a wonderful way of bringing our language to equal in the world that we live.

Thank you for sharing.

IamMine said...

Nice job on popping your cherry as a vlogger on an important issue!

It gave me an impression that you want to continue discussing on how we could better handle different situations as deaf people with hearing people!

I'd love to see more vlogs on that - we are always educating the hearing people, but we do need to educate ourselves to make the situations better for us - and for hearing people, too!

You rock!

I have to go out to Home Depot soon...and I'll report what happens with your advices! :)

Thanks and welcome! :D

John Lestina --- said...

msg for you: CLICK HERE

Jac said...

Interesting, I never thought about that way approach the hearing people, I usually says to point my ear to nod no means "deaf" to let them know that I couldn't hear. Also my habit to take my paper and pen out to write! Now I see your story, it sound good ones! Why not I will try to do that! Thanks for sharing with us!

Anonymous said...

good idea!! I will do that. anyway, I want to share my experience about approach a hearing guy. when we drove our car and almost hit each other in thefront after I left my bank. a hearing guy gots so angry at me with his mouth movement for being so reckless driver.. I got back at him angrily with my asl. Then he stopped and looked at his pasenger quietly. My deaf friend(passenger) asked me why I did use my asl even tho he did not understand me. I told him I used as asl as he used to speak... him and me are in the same boat we are equal period. KH

Eric Babb said...

Matt Jamison: You asked a very good question. "How to deal with awkward hearing" will be the next topic on this vlog. I have a few ideas of how to deal with them. Keep your eyes on this vlog for the next few days.

Susan: Yes, we need to be proud of our identity and our language. I am glad that you find the approach as a natural approach. Good luck with trying the approach.

IamMine: Yes I plan to include different kinds of situation on how to deal with with hearing people to the vlog. Then we will discuss about it. Let me know if you have tried the approach.

Jac: Anytime. Wish you a good luck with the approach.

Anonymous: Thanks for sharing your experience about dealing with an angry driver. You did the right thing.

John: I have a message for you: CLICK HERE :)

John Lestina --- said...

msg for Eric: CLICK HERE

John Lestina --- said...

msg above here is an error so here is correct msg:CLICK HERE

Michele said...

Hi, thanks for the vlog, it makes me think about how I want to approach people.

I wonder if you have any tips on where we are in places that people are pressed for time like fast-food restaurants or whatever as they may not have as much patience with us when we need to ask them.

Thanks and I look forward to your next vlog.

RLM said...

I always go to the customer service or store manager of most stores and hand in the written note for such specific item I am looking for.

I usually write like "VHS Tape, Aisle # ?" I would get an immediate response like the clerk or store manager or customer service pepople make a gesture pointing out to particular location.

I sometimes have to point out to the "Aisle #?" on the note and asked for the written response. I would go on my own with the knowledge of where the specific item is in the exact aisle #.

Or the store manager/customer service people and assigned clerk walk me to the right aisle and point out to the item I particularly look for. I simply thank them.

I never got any kind of societal pity from anyone working at the store or restuarant and wherever the place are.

The truth is the total failure on the part of retail industry for not properly train or educate the store management and hired personnels how to deal with the cross-cultural population like deaf people and people with non-common religions.

One Muslim guy sued the local hosptial for being manhandled in the restroom after seeing him washed his own feets in the sink. That was his own religious custom for washing the feet before seeing the doctor, etc.

That is a pure symbol of total ignorance among many Americans for cultural, linguistic, sexual preference and religious tolerances.

Robert L. Mason (RLM)

Anonymous said...

Everything almost true what you said on video yes but to hearing ppl don't. I know we deaf ppl kind get frusted. Like we straigh talk with hearing ppl without said cant hear or deaf. They got freeze for second not think what deaf ppl try to say something that is difficult part. If they start talk voice and I see they were talk I wait and see try to understand some not. Then answer the question or can't undy said sorry what you said again. Kind help hearing realized when they found you are DEAF less freak some ppl willing try talk with deaf ppl when not work they start write paper. I noticed about 25% hearing ppl trying to talk with deaf and 75% like said oh sorry NEVER MIND that really bother me when their famous said that. So I still keep going gesture with ppl as friendly so ppl see we deaf are same as hearing ppl as equal for each another. So hearing ppl see deaf ppl just friendly not against anything. Wish hearing ppl think same thing like treat same with deaf ppl not like freak out dont know what to do with deaf. I know they need to think twice sorry wait take paper and pen out. Which good

Joshua Allen

Mira said...

Have you ever been asked by hearing people, CAN YOU READ MY LIPS? And I asked using ASL, CAN YOU UNDERSTAND MY SIGN? He was like numb I took it as No! *shrug*
This morning the manager of ice skating just asked can my daughter read lips? Ugh, I hate being asked that QQ and my daughter is only 3 yrs old, it is her excuse. I feel it's discriminated to deny my daughter to join class to learn ice skate. I just file complain in ADA.

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Please make some more video clips! You are so interesting!

Anonymous said...

Actually, think about it... we are in America and yet we do have non-english speaking people who do thier shopping anywhere and they speak their native language to the clerks! why cant we? Sure, what a brilliant idea, let's do it speak our own native language!

Anonymous said...

hey eric.... i liked your vlog , good to see you, will be up in nw soon and hope to see our smile, hi to your family..lisa w

mule4350 said...

Hey What about work when I use ASL to any worker so They would report to supervisor or get trouble. but Suggest that A DEAF person make a presentation to all workers and it may help them. At store They have no excuse to see a lot of DEAF/HOH around!

Dawn Gallegos said...

All through my adult life I have never realize that until you put in bluntly on how it actually influence the people. With this new way of looking at life, I will start by signing to them rather than to attempt to communciate in the ususal way. I am pretty postive that it will bring better attitudes and results. I have occasionally run into people who acts very rude to me after I attempted to let them know in the ususal way. Thank you for the enlightment.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this. I gotta try that out. :-)

Anonymous said...

Yes, I totally agree with you. I live in small town in Indiana with 2 teenagers and husband. I often drive my kids to practices, games, etc and every time I meet people I know more, I sign to them and they usually patiently observe by trying to understand me as if they were "curious" what I talked about. It worked!!!
Thanks for bringing up that issue.

Kevin Roddy said...


I've enjoyed your blog entries immensely!

I am a student of ASL and I'm wanting to learn as fast as I can - I work at a Community College in Hawaii where deaf students attend and I want to be able to help them in ASL like I help English or Hawaiian speaking students in those languages.

Your captioning is excellent so I can watch you and read along - this is a wonderful way that ASL students can see how different folks sign and become accustomed to different ways folks sign!

Keep up the good work!!!!



Sordomadre said...

Howdy. I really like your idea. We are living at the times where people by now should have a better understanding of the deaf. Unfortunaltely thats not always the case. My husband is mexican and whenever we communicate with hearing mexicans they always at a level with us. They act out their communications and never make us feel we are below them.
But when hearing ppl finds Im deaf and apologize I always answer, why? That usually puts them in the spot.
My hearing mom always taught me never be sorry for who you are and always let others know that too.

Anonymous said...

I'm the mother of HoH kids who so far do not want to learn ASL.

I think this is a great idea, and very natural! When I was in Europe, I'd try English first, to see if the person knew it. If they weren't fluent, we worked something out with the German I knew, the English they knew, and whatever else it took.

Your method implies that ASL is a language like any other, one that it might be handy for non-speakers to learn. It is not hostile, and neither accusatory nor apologetic. It assumes that the work of communicating is shared.

I like it!

Jean Jones said...

Hi, Eric. I'm a hearing person. I know some sign language but, unfortunately, I wasn't able to keep up with you via video. I read your text to "get your message."

You make it sound as if ALL hearing people either pity or don't want to deal with Deaf people. That isn't true. Unfortunately, there are some "hearies" who will say or do stupid things--they simply don't know any better. What we "hearies" need is more exposure to Deaf people/culture. I met several Deaf/HOH people at work. Prior to meeting them, I had no long-term exposure to Deaf people/culture. They inspired me to learn sign language. I still have a long way to go, but I plan to become fluent.

Now, Eric, I won't speak for all "hearies," but for myself, education about and exposure to the Deaf community and your contributions to society helped me. That's the key.