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June 1, 2004

Listen to my hands

From: La Voz Online - Jun 1, 2004

Living in a verbal world without the ability to hear, everyday happenings can become extraordinary experiences

by: Sarah Joy Callahan
June 01, 2004

Imagine that a friend is giving you a ride when you suddenly see the car is about to collide with a huge truck. You want to alert him, but you have to catch his attention only with your hands. This happened to deaf student Tonie Taylor, whose right arm was in a sling when she talked to La Voz.

Taylor shared her experiences by writing with her left hand and talking through a sign language interpreter provided by De Anza. Taylor lost almost all of her hearing at the age of two from an infection. She wears hearing aids and sometimes uses her voice to communicate in carefully articulated syllables. She can communicate much of what she is thinking just through vivid facial expressions.

The oddest thing about a conversation with Taylor is that her voice is coming from her interpreter. She has an interpreter for all of her classes, but day to day tasks can be a challenge. When ordering food, Taylor must point to what she wants on the menu. When getting her hair cut, she shows the stylist a picture of what she wants. She watches TV with subtitles but relies on images alone when she sees a movie in the theater.

Deaf people don't lose the luxury of talking on the telephone, although calling them is a little different from a typical phone conversation. A caller dials the 711 relay service, from which they get in contact with an operator who dials the deaf person's phone number on their special TTY phone.

The operator then types what the caller says and text appears on the deaf person's screen. The deaf person's typed response appears on the operator's screen and is read aloud to the caller.

The necessity of communicating in a different way can affect a deaf person's friendships.

Taylor said that most of her friends are fluent in sign language and so communication with them is not a major struggle.

Being deaf also puts an interesting spin on romantic relationships. Taylor said she has dated other deaf people in the past, although she prefers relationships with hearing people. Her reason is that in her perspective, two deaf people together have to work too hard in order to communicate. Aspects of the life style of another deaf person also bother her.

Without the ability to hear, someone must depend on visual clues instead. The most common of these in the home is having lights all over the place. One flashing light indicates the doorbell is ringing, and another flashing light signals that someone is on the phone. Taylor said the lights in a deaf boyfriend's home drove her crazy.

Taylor's biggest concern about her own safety as a deaf person comes from not being able to hear alarms.

She wrote a letter proposing that a fire alarm that vibrates a sleeper's bed should be invented. While that invention is in the making, Taylor has created her own vibrating alarm clock. She does not wake up every morning to the sound of an alarm clock beeping like most of us do, but sleeps with an old phone programmed to vibrate at the proper time. Maybe this early morning strategy is what puts Taylor in a good mood. Even with her arm in a sling, she still continues to smile.

For more information on learning how to sign, you can visit these informational Web sites:






If you are interested in taking classes, De Anza offers level one American Sign Language every fall quarter. You can visit the disabled student's center for more information.

© 2004 La Voz Online