Deaf people belong at the Thanksgiving table

Deaf people belong at the Thanksgiving table
Photo by Alan M. Dumoff, ccdphotolibrary.smugmug.com The Deaf Community holds a Thanksgiving social Nov. 13 at McDaid Hall in Westmont, part of Saint Teresa of Calcutta Parish, Collingswood.

Photo by Alan M. Dumoff, ccdphotolibrary.smugmug.com
The Deaf Community holds a Thanksgiving social Nov. 13 at McDaid Hall in Westmont, part of Saint Teresa of Calcutta Parish, Collingswood.

 

Thanksgiving is a time to gather together with our families and friends to give thanks to God for the many gifts of life and love. Recently the Deaf Community celebrated a Thanksgiving Dinner at McDaid Hall, in Westmont. One of the Deaf women that attended the celebration told me that although this dinner may have been a lot of work, it is well worth it because she felt included; she was not left out. She knew she belonged.

The woman was able to be a part of the conversation at the dinner table because it was in American Sign Language (ASL). Most times, when a Deaf person sits at a dinner table, he or she misses out on the chatting that happens around the table. When everyone laughs at something, the Deaf person is the last person to laugh because he or she can’t follow the conversation.

Often, no one else in the family signs with the Deaf person. Even if the Deaf person is a skilled speech reader, the conversations are so fast, the back and forth is so quick, that the conversation cannot be understood. When this happens, Deaf people eat quickly, excuse themselves and watch TV — if closed captions are available.

The dinner party continues at the table without the presence of the Deaf person.

The reality is that the Deaf person truly wishes to stay longer at the table and enjoy the conversation. However, due to their deafness there is a deep feeling of isolation even when they are among family members and friends. For most people, the table represents happiness, laughter and catching up on news with people who you have not seen for a while. For Deaf people the table can represent isolation, frustration and loneliness. If no one else at the table signs, the Deaf person cannot “freely” be a part of the family celebration.

The Deaf person’s true wish is that someone would be able to communicate in sign language to the Deaf person so that they could have a natural conversation and understand what is happening around the table. This is why Deaf people feel it is so important to attend Deaf Community events. They need to feel comfortable at the table and feel that they belong to the family. So if you have a Deaf family member who uses sign language; I suggest you try to learn a few signs this Thanksgiving. It would mean the world to them.

A few suggestions you can find on the web:

www.aslnook.com

www.frmd.org

www.lifeprint.com

www.aslpro.com

or take up ASL classes at Camden County Community College or our free classes at McDaid Hall on Tuesday nights beginning on Jan. 24.

 

For more information, see http://vitality.camdendiocese.org/ministry-with-the-deaf or contact Kate at 856-283-3962.

 

Kate Slosar is co-director, Ministry With the Deaf, Diocese of Camden.

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