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My last article

My last article

August 8th, 2012 by Arthur Grant Dignan in News

The title "My last article" does not mean I am finished writing. Instead of continuing writing a regular newspaper column, I will soon begin transforming these articles into a book. This will allow me to expand upon the ideas I have introduced over the past two years and include additional stories and information concerning deaf culture, deaf issues and other aspects of the lives of deaf people. I ask my loyal readers to continue to learn about deaf people by exploring the works of deaf writers who came before me, as well as those who will come along after me.

I am so glad that I have had the privilege to express my experiences as a deaf person in regards to my deaf family, deaf peers and many other deaf individuals, and the problematic set of circumstances we have each encountered. I hope that in some small way, sharing our experiences will help you better understand what it is like to be deaf.

As you have seen from the numerous articles I have written over the past two years, each deaf individual has come from a unique background. We came from different parents with different domestic situations, different schools and different fates. Hearing state government staff and non-deaf professionals have determined many important aspects of our lives. Their mostly false assumptions and misleading information about communication opportunities and educational placements have become popular with the innocent and naïve-hearing parents. I hope that my articles and those of other deaf writers will help influence positive changes in the lives of deaf children and their hearing families.

My goal for these articles has been to help you, especially the parents of deaf children, to see that there is another option available that most of the deaf people support. Non-deaf professionals have managed to keep our understanding and beliefs about Deaf Education and the importance of American Sign Language well hidden from the parents of deaf children. This is one reason it is crucial for parents of deaf children to talk to deaf professionals and other deaf people with well-educated deaf children.

Please feel free to contact me through the Fulton Sun. You might also contact other local deaf people, or those living in the Kansas City or St. Louis areas. Deaf professionals from Gallaudet University, California State University at Northridge, among other places across the country, may also be helpful for you to contact.

Lastly, I want to express my gratitude to my very generous editor Karen Atkins and her Fulton Sun staff for their continuous encouragement, selfless cooperation and full support for the articles that I have written over the past two years.

Years ago, Willard Madsen, a friend who was also one of my former professors, penned a poem entitled, "You Have to be Deaf to Understand." It is included below. I hope you enjoy it.

(Written at 1971 by Willard J. Madsen, professor of journalism at Gallaudet University. This poem was translated into seven different languages and reprinted in publications, including DEAF HERITAGE)

You Have to be deaf to understand the deaf

What is it like to "hear" a hand?

You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like to be a small child,

In a school, in a room void of sound --

With a teacher who talks and talks and talks;

And then when she does come around to you,

She expects you to know what she's said?

You have to be deaf to understand.

Or the teacher thinks that to make you smart,

You must first learn how to talk with your voice;

So mumbo-jumbo with hands on your face

For hours and hours without patience or end,

Until out comes a faint resembling sound?

You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like to be curious,

To thirst for knowledge you can call your own,

With an inner desire that's set on fire --

And you ask a brother, sister, or friend

Who looks in answer and says, "Never Mind"?

You have to be deaf to understand.

What it is like in a corner to stand,

Though there's nothing you've done really wrong,

Other than try to make use of your hands

To a silent peer to communicate

A thought that comes to your mind all at once?

You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like to be shouted at

When one thinks that will help you to hear;

Or misunderstand the words of a friend

Who is trying to make a joke clear,

And you don't get the point because he's failed?

You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like to be laughed in the face

When you try to repeat what is said;

Just to make sure that you've understood,

And you find that the words were misread --

And you want to cry out, "Please help me, friend"?

You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like to have to depend

Upon one who can hear to phone a friend;

Or place a call to a business firm

And be forced to share what's personal, and,

Then find that your message wasn't made clear?

You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like to be deaf and alone

In the company of those who can hear --

And you only guess as you go along,

For no one's there with a helping hand,

As you try to keep up with words and song?

You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like on the road of life

To meet with a stranger who opens his mouth --

And speaks out a line at a rapid pace;

And you can't understand the look in his face

Because it is new and you're lost in the race?

You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like to comprehend

Some nimble fingers that paint the scene,

And make you smile and feel serene,

With the "spoken word" of the moving hand

That makes you part of the word at large?

You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like to "hear" a hand?

Yes, you have to be deaf to understand.