Deaf Role Models – Wherefore Art Thou?

I’ll be short and sweet today. I have a ridiculous amount of work for clinic and everything else. (I promise to talk about my clinic, but there is so much to talk about that I don’t even know where to begin).

I was thinking to myself the other day – who was my role model growing up? Were there any d/Deaf/HOH folks who motivated me to get to where I am today? Trust me, I know my success thus far has been a mixture of a lot of sweat and a dash of luck. 

I know I do not get personal very often, but please tolerate my nostalgia. I did have some typical role models such as my parents. Not to say that my parents are not amazing people – they are – but they are hearing. As much as they tried to provide me with every opportunity in life, even if it meant that they lost out on their own opportunities, they could never quite show me how to be a successful Deaf woman. How could they? As sympathetic they could be, they couldn’t experience life the way that I experience it. My parents were one of the main factors in my success – they worked tirelessly to make sure i had services growing up and worked with me outside of class to ensure that I was actively learning. Hey, I ended up reading at 3 year old, so they must have done something right.

My parents aside, I had an unlikely role model – a Deaf mail sorter. You may be scratching your head right now – a postal worker? But he was one of the most remarkable men I’ve ever known. He was a good bit older than me. When I was six, he was well into his forties, but he took time to talk to me (signing!) with me. I still remember how we would chat away and he would tell me all about his job and his experiences growing up Deaf. He was one of the smartest men I’ve ever met – he could figure out the best way to do anything in a second. He always knew how to present his ideas in a clear and straightfoward manner – a talent that many lawyers, despite all of their schoolin’, have yet to acquire. 

Looking back, I do wonder what he would have ended up doing if he was born 40 years later? He was such an intelligent man, it makes my heart ache that he was never able to fulfill his potential in a professional capacity. Of course, not everyone can be a doctor, engineer or laywer (I would pull my hair out if that was the case – they are annoying enough :)), but he could have been a lot more. His situation inspired me to be all I can be (sorry Army, I ripped you off) and remember that there is more at stake than just my future. Thee success of a few d/Deaf/HOH folks can set the stage for many others to succeed by their own rights. I learned that any d/Deaf/HOH person can be smart, regardless of the “deaf and dumb” stereotypes out there and that is such an valuable thing for a child to learn.  

Basically, go out and interact! You never know who you will inspire.

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6 responses to “Deaf Role Models – Wherefore Art Thou?

  1. Yeah, I was in the same spot as you growing up. Although I didn’t have any Deaf role model much like the mail sorter you had.

    Although during my high school years, I did have this awesome interpreter who supported me in whatever endeavors I went into. He wasn’t exactly a role model but if I had to pick somebody that helped me get to the point where I am today, I’d probably pick him.

    I agree with you with going out and interact aspect. Even if you don’t run into any Deaf children or whatnot, you still will be able to change hearing people’s perceptive of Deaf people. For example, few weeks ago, I visited my old high school (just to “brown nose” a teacher there, who is a professor at my university as well- I swear!). I sat in one of his class, signing with him. One of his student asked him why he and I were signing. He explained that I was Deaf, visiting during my spring break from University. The student was incredulous that a Deaf person could go to college. He couldn’t believe that I was completely Deaf. Even went thought the lengths to ensure that I was actually Deaf.

    I don’t know what to say about that. It completely shocked me to find out that somebody actually thought that. I feel that if there was more public and successful Deaf people, hearing people wouldn’t think that way.

  2. many people always think Deaf people are stupid! We have to work harder to prove them wrong! One shop owner was shocked to see me driving a car and it took her two months to get over from that shock!!!!

  3. Jesus. The same thing happened with one guy on my cross country team. One time we were insulting each other (jokely of course), and he made some comment about me driving. Then all of sudden, he stopped and asked me (seriously, not jokely), “oh wait, deaf people can’t drive, can they?”

    I just stared at him like he was asinine.

  4. when some persons asked me about my course. I told them that I am currently studying the law. They looked at me as if I was pulling their legs. They were surprised that Deaf individuals can learn the law. I would like to see more and more Deaf persons becoming the lawyers.

  5. Anyone who is a member of minority or is perceived as a disabled individual including deaf/HOH (Most of us don’t perceive ourselves as a disabled individual). They would assume that we cant do certain things. In a nutshell, We will always encounter ignorant people. That is rather unfortunate society we live in. Look at bright side, people in general are more aware of our ability as deaf and/or HOH individual to function equally as hearing people as opposed in the past.
    Hispanic and people in a minority people who are considered “normal” still complain they are discriminated or oppressed in some form.

  6. theurbindirt

    In Australia, I am a part of a group of young deaf people that set up our own mentoring program for deaf adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18.

    It is one of the most inspiring things I have ever done. We, the mentors, are all young and successful, and all profoundly deaf – and all our mentors were normal hearing people.

    We all wished that we had had something like that when we were growing up.

    If you are interested (i know its wrong country!) have a look at http://www.hearforyou.com.au.

    You should start your own!

    I myself know 3 deaf lawyers, and I really think they are wonderful role models.

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