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September 15, 2004

Deaf and living between two words

From: Ripon College Days, WI - Sept 15, 2004

Ashley Nuter
Guest Columnist
September 15, 2004

Since birth, I've never heard a single sound.

The more I try to understand the world of hearing, the more confused I become. I aspire to understand the world of hearing and all the things I can't identify with, but the more I have tried, the more confused I have become. In my condition, people would look at me and think I've got it easy due to how I handle my life as a deaf person. I'm here to prove otherwise. Tears have been shed. My anger often emerges when ignorance presents itself. More often than not, I hold my head up and then confront the faces of misunderstanding, hatred, and fear.

As many do not realize, I live in between two worlds. One world belongs to the non-deaf population whereas the other world belongs to the deaf community. Since childhood, I've not felt accepted by either world. Non-deaf people view me as something lesser due to my disability. Deaf people resent the fact that I interact with non-deaf people.

I've never attended any schools for the deaf. I rarely attended any deaf social functions. I attribute it to the fact that I grew up in a community where I had to adapt to a culture that is not of my own. While growing up, I often felt apprehensive as I entered a new classroom. A thousand different thoughts swarmed through my head. I worried about establishing relationships with other students without an ability of communicating in their language. Anxiously, I looked around at other students. They smiled. They didn't know I am deaf just yet.

My deafness is often considered an invisible disability. I am considered "normal" until my hands start moving. Suddenly, several students walked up to me and their lips began moving in a rapid pace. Unable to reply to their casual conversation, they realized that I am different. It is usually how it goes on the first day of school.

I am often told that I am not like hearing people because I am unable to hear. Some people made assumptions about me. More often than not, when I enter a classroom for a first time, professors are uncertain how to deal with my disability. The task lies upon my shoulders to adapt for them to become comfortable with my deafness. Unfortunately, it is not easy for some people to accept me due to their ignorance or fear.

The experiences I've had in my life brought numerous valuable lessons. I try to forget the negativity I had gone through by remembering the important principles in my life. Rather than allowing my deafness to become a limitation, I've always explored different ways to push the boundaries.

On the other hand, it can be quite difficult when I run into the deaf crowd. Every time I told them about my background, I expected them to applaud my efforts in trying to make a difference in a hearing world. I was wrong. They would ask me all "the questions." Why am I neglecting my culture? Why am I so much like hearing people? Why am I living in a non-deaf people's world?

I try to explain my perspective to deaf people. Unfortunately, a scratch on the surface couldn't break through the density of the biases. Every time I comment on something regarding the hearing culture, the eyes of the deaf community automatically look down upon me.

I've been stuck in between both worlds. I am not accepted by neither hearing nor deaf people. So what does that make me? For a short while I pondered, dreading what was out there in the real world then all of a sudden, it came to me. Rather than dissecting the differences, I try to see the similarities. I realized there are more similarities than dissimilarities between the two cultures.

It bought me understanding of each perspective. I no longer feel out of the place. I have formed a bridge between both worlds. I only hope someone would have courage to walk over into the world they have never dreamed of.

© 2004 Ripon College Days