my blind ASL users group/ my signing story so far

Group information

Hello

This group is for anyone who is learning or wants to learn about using asl as a blind person. It will hopefully be a safe place for discussions about the complex and unique process of this task, as well as a supportive place to discuss issues around not only learning but interacting with others. Victories and hard times alike can be shared. Hoping for a wide variety of blind ASL users as well as caring supportive deaf or hearing sighted signers

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Writing this post is hard for me. I’m an outsider to a very tight knit community, that is people who are deaf. ASL is their first language something they’ve worked so hard to protect and stand up for, I have been told this. I had no idea about that struggle before, and as an outtsier will never fully get so many things related to wanting to cross what some people feel is an uncrossable bridge, between people with disabilities that seem so opposed to one another.

I have nothing but good intentions. Want absolutely nothing more than to just make friends. Because I have this strong feeling that there can be deep and lasting connections between all people as humans regardless of any disability. But since I don’t live in the deaf world I’m afraid I will say something upsetting without even realizing it. I feel the same tention and uncertainty I felt when writing the ritual abuse post. But that was tempered by knowing RA survivors for years, and feeling as comfortable as a supporter can to be able to write well about the experience. As it stands right now I haven’t really interacted with enough people to feel comfortable just saying whatever’s on my mind. Which is my default to say whatever’s on my mind and then realize I don’t have a clue.

I’m not sure when I first thought about wanting to sign. I’m trying to think if it was before coming here, which was of course where things really took off or then. Since living at friedman I knew Robbie had taken sign at the school he went to. But really didn’t ask many questions then.

Yeah, I think it had to be coming here. And meeting Katheryn, and Jo and Jessica. Our three deaf residents. I was so happy they were there. It meant that Jonathan is very open minded and truly sees the person not the disability. And as long as the person isn’t asking for accomidations as if here was a place specifically for their disability most issues could be worked out.

But it really really bothered me that he was the only person to really know to sign. Some staff learned over time, learned and left and then new ones learned. Jo and Jessica could speak, or voice as it’s called, be verbal at times. But Katheryn really couldn’t. In the beginning I was a little unsettled by her squeals and various other sounds she made. But when people made fun of her it killed me. I always stood up for her.

Along came an asl speaking caseworker. At the time I was often in such a state it would be hard for me to really talk about how I was feeling. So would so often hit staff bang the walls or scratch. I was thinking if I learned a few signs, for emotions, yes/ no, things like that it might help. My caseworker agreed. The problem was this guy was incredibly busy. So we never sat down to talk about it much. He showed me how to spell my name, and ILY. But the turning point was when we played a card game, the UN game where they ask you questions about yourself. He interpreted for Katheryn. And it was amazing to watch. Amazing to see her come alive to me for the first time, as obviously I couldn’t pick up on any visual cues. To know some things about her likes and dislikes and get a sense of her personality. It was so good. And it made seeing staff not interacting with her properly hard. I know how alienating a disability can be. Being one blind person in many situations all my life. But the staff wouldn’t budege about signing being something they just didn’t have the time for.

I then read Hurt Go Happy, a children’s fiction book about a deaf girl in a family that refuses to allow her sign. And how she meets an elderly man and his very talkative chimpanzee. And how they change each other. She learns to sign through them. Different signs were talked about through the book. After reading that amazing book I wanted to learn it. But the huge barrier being I can’t see. So every sighted person I talked to had that same answer they didn’t want to even try.

It’s been an up and down journey. Jess and I tried a lot. Hard to just copy off a video when you don’t know what you’re doing. We frustrate each other easily so that was hard. Edith did take an interest in helping me and has the advantage of having worked with disabled people on hand coordination so was good with me with that. I really practiced. Got the alphabet pretty ok (c, o, and z are still issues) and some other signs. But then she left. Saying to my surprise to please keep learning and never be embarrassed. Surprised as I didn’t think she was that passionate about it.

So now I know Katheryn prefers to be called Kat. Some people call her Kate. People are like oh it’s no problem about the name because we don’t really use her name a lot in conversations. Just would feel horrible in any case if someone got my name wrong. Most of the time Jess and she will write back and forth translating while I say what I want. Jess has an amazing ability to read Kat though doesn’t remember many signs. I call her my little interpreter.

But I was still totally stumped on finding anyone in the area who was confident in teaching the blind, or any other hearing blind individuals. I kept furiously browsing youtube for anything to do with blind ASL.

I found this video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8nF8rdDxGs

I was totally amazed!! I didn’t know a blind or deaf blind person could be an interpreter. And I just wanted to learn to sign, tis person was way ahead of the game.

I watched a couple others, so good they put the English version below the videos.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ai6CmYIcjI

After this I was very moved and commented on the videos right away. After a few weeks Nai responded very positively. And we connected that day. We skyped for two hours, that was on me LOL! We learned so much about each other beyond just having signing in common. I’m happy to say I found a new friend in them.

Their confidence and one of Robbie’s friends saying my signs looked good, on camera, made me want to learn more. So recently went to Robbie’s we had a real signing lessons. Turns out my signs aren’t so good off camera. Robbie’s style of signing is very slow but very clear which is a huge plus. And we’re best friends so if I mess up we both just laugh about it. He’s taught me a couple things along with redoing the signs I thought I knew. I plan to continuously bug him on this. As a deal I’ll be helping him learn braille.

Still can’t find anyone able to help in the Chicago area and this is after contacting several schools suggested. What has struck me the most was actually being able to have the full process of signing with Robbie someone confident in it. Such an intimate connection transferring information through your hands just something you have to do to believe. Hoping to meet many that do. I know my friend here sees the effort and appreciates it. I have a handful of words. I ask how she is, if she’s having a hard time I frown and say sorry bad. If she’s doing good I say good! Mostly smile encouragingly. I’m sure this journey will open up new connections to people I never expected.

I’ve made a group for people who are interested in this in anyway. Allies, supporters are always welcome.

Hoping to form a solid group of support around this new part of my life

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