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JosbRueda

DeafCulture
06/14/16

ToKnowASL,WalkASL

Languagehasalwaysbeenaninterestofmine.Ataveryyoungage,Istartedtopay
attentiontopeoplewhospokedifferentlanguages.IwouldintentlylistenasItriedtoidentify
whichlanguagewasusedandwhattheyweretalkingabout.Iwasintriguedbythevariousforms
ofcommunicationandoftenponderedhoweachdeveloped.Alllanguagesfascinatedme..
WhenIwassixyearsofage,IwasintroducedtoAmericanSignLanguage(ASL).Whilesitting
withfamilyatalocalrestaurant,adeafwomanwalkedupandplacedtheABCsinsign
languagecarddown.ImmediatelyIknewwhatitwas!Alanguagethatuseshandstotalk.I
thoughttomyself.Ibeggedmymothertopaythe$2thecardsuggested.Thewomansigned
thankyouandleft.Thatmomentwasmyfirststepintotheanewlanguageandeventuallya
newculture,Itaughtmyselfthealphabetinsignlanguageandmemorizedmyfirstsignedword,
Thankyou.AsIwasgrowingup,IdidnotlearnASLbutIpracticedthealphabetoften.and
knewthatonedayIwilllearnhowtospeakwithmyhands.AsaSojourner,mycuriositydrove
melearn.ItwasnotuntilmyadultyearsthatIfullyunderstoodwhatitmeanstobeaSojourner
despitealreadywalkingthatpath.

ASojournermustbewillingtogooutbeyondthenormsofonesownbeliefs.To
exploreunconventionalperspectiveswiththecommitmenttounderstand.Idealy,Ialready
understoodtheneedtolearnASL.However,toconceivethelifeofadeafperson,Icompared
feelingsandmomentsthatIexperiencedtosimilarfeelingsandmomentsthatdeafpeopledo.

ThecultureoftheDeafcommunityrunsdeeperthanonecanmerelydiscuss.Itisevidentthat
everyonegoesthroughstrugglesintheirlives.Itisthesestrugglesthatmakeusgrow.Asatype
1diabetics,myexperiencedseemedsimilartodeafpeopleinsomerespects.Clearlythemedical
diagnosisbetweenthetwoareconsiderablydifferent.Ididfindthatthestares,theglares,the
cants,theassumptionsandmisunderstandingfromothersgreatlycoincidewiththetwo.My
ownstruggleshelpedmetoempathizewiththosewhoaredeaf.Asmanydeafpeopledo,Ispent
timeexplaininghowIamcapableofdrivingorwatchingtheglazedlooksonpeoplesfaceswho
didnotunderstand.Although,tolivealifewithlittletonosound,onecanonlywalkintheir
shoestofullycomprehendwhatitislike.Buttofullyunderstandthedeafcommunity,onemust
bedeaf.However,thefirststepintolearningaboutacultureistolearnthelanguage.

Iwasinspired,atanearlyage,tolearnASL.WhenIbeganmylesson,Iquicklyrealized
thatthecomraderyoftheDeafcommunityishearty.Despitetheconstantlashesfrom
organizationsthataimtodiminishASLasmeregestures.TheDeafcommunityconsidereach
otherkindred.Asaculturewithvaluesandstandards,policiescanneverunderminewhothey
are.Ifanyonewishestounderstandanythingaboutaworldwithnosound,learningandusing
ASLisnecessary.Thiswaspartofwhatinspiredmetocreatethisartwork.Asaplayonthe
metaphorwalkthetalk.Ifoneistocomprehendwhatthedeafcultureisabout,theymust
delveintoit.Immersingandexpressingthemselvesinthelanguageandculture.Youcannot
simplyKnowASLtounderstandthepeople.YoumustWalkASLbylearningtheirhistory,
languageandcustoms.Justasanyoneshouldwhenencounteringvariousothercultures.Deaf
peoplehavearichhistoryfanningfromMarthasVineyard(apredominantlyASLusing

communityinthe1800s)toSchoolsforthedeafinFrance(bothoriginsofASL).Theartwork
inEnglishstates,ToknowASL,WalkASL.Meaningifyouwishtoknowaboutthisculture
youmustwalkwiththem.Indoingso,youmaygraspthecenterofwhotheyare.

Knowledgeoflanguageisthedoorwaytowisdom.:
RogerBacon

TheDeafcommunityhasdevelopedtheirownlanguagebecauseaculturewithoutsound
canonlyexpressitselfthroughsymbolsinmotion.Thecenterpiecefocusesonthisidea,
expressionsinmotion.Ihaveseenmanysymbolsusedfordeafadvocacybutitisdifficultto
showmotioninatwodimensionalplane.IattempttoportraytheiconicuseofthesymbolASL
asitisseenwithmovement.Justasthecenterofapersoniswhatmovesthemtowalkthrough
life,beingdeafisawayoflifeandsignlanguageistheircenter.Thesignforwalkisdepicted
abovethefootprints.Thismeaningsymbolizeswalkingintheirshoes.Hearingpeoplemay
nevercomprehendthetotalityofbeingdeafbuttheabilitytointeractwiththeDeafcommunityis
theeasieststeptotakeintotheirworld.TheimageisalsoformattedinASLKnowASL,ASL
Walk.LooselytranslatesintoToknowASListoWalkASL.Asthequoteabovedescribes,
steppingthroughthedoorrequiresknowledgeofthelanguage.Walkingbeyondishowthe
sojournergrows.

Asasojournercomingfromahearingworld,Ihavealwayswantedtoencounternew
perspectivesinlife.ThefranknessoftheDeafculturereiteratestheimportanceofhonesty.

Oftenpeopleareoffendedeasilybycomments.IntheDeafculture,manyoftheircommentsare
signsoftrustworthinessandcomfort.Signsofaffectionduringgreetingsissomethingthe
hearingworldcanlearnfrom.Thisgroupofpeopleisveryreceptivetothosewhoactuallymake
aneffort.Duringagroupassignment,wewererequiredtointeractwithpeopleusingonlyASL.
PersonallyIplayedDeaf.Consciouslyignoringallsounds.Whilethismaynotbeanything
similarthethedeafworld,itdidbringtolightthedifferentreactionsofpeople.Ourwaitress
seemedverywillingtoaccommodateus.Herreplacementwantednothingtodowithus.I
appreciatedtheeffortsthatpeoplemadeandcanunderstandwhypeoplewhoaredeaftendtobe
justasappreciative.Afterlunch,ourgroupwenttoabookstore.ThereIscribbledonanotepad
forbooksIsought.Interestingly,theattendantinquiredifIcouldreadSpanish.Ishookmy
headnoandshewalkedofwithashrug.Weendedourdaywithatriptotheicecreamshop.
ThereoneattendantobservedhowIsignedthankyou.Icouldseethatthiswasherfirsttime
interactingwithpeoplewhouseASL.Irealizedthatshelearnedfirstwasexactlythesamesign
thatIlearnedasachild.Thisexperiencegavemeasmallinsightintowhatdeafpeopledealona
dailybasis.ItwasmyfirststepinwalkingASL.

LearningaboutthehistoryofASLanditsculturebroughtmetheknowledgeneededfor
understanding.SojournerssuchasThomasH.GallaudetandLaurentMClerc,wereinspiredto
offeraneducationtodeafpeople.Theybothknewtheircentersandgenuinelywalkedthe
walk.TheinsistesintothedeafworldviathebookWonderstruck
byBrianSelznickbrought
theperspectiveofthevisuallearningprocessofthedeaf.Watchingamoviewithoutsoundgave
methewisdomtoappreciatetheartsofcinematography.Everyspeakerthatappearedinclass

gaveusanotherperspectiveoftheirworld.AlthoughImaynevertrulyKNOWwhatitisliketo
bedeaf.Myjourneywillneverstop.Theinspirationofmyartistoremindeveryone(hearing
anddeaf)toknowyourcenter.Knowyourformofexpression.Whenyoufeelyouknowit,then
useit.ThisDeafcultureclassopenednewdoors,gavemenewperspectivesandhelpguideme
throughmyjourneyintothedeafworld.Asasteppingstoneintootherlanguages,IknowIwill
walkthroughlifewithgreaterempathyandunderstandingofASLandmanyotherlanguages.As
LudwigWittgensteinoncesaid,Thelimitsofmylanguagearethelimitsofmyworld.Never
limityourworldduetodifferencesinlanguage.Thereisacultureouttherethatcansaymuch
morethanspokenwordscanexpress.