The Deaf and Hard of Hearing are Everywhere

February 24, 2015


las vegas Las Vegas…….1980 something…..walking down the strip with my sister. It’s late of course and the sound of slot machines and the smell of cigarette smoke waft out of every casino doorway. People everywhere. So many flashing lights and so many sounds.

As we’re walking, I hear a man behind us. He begins making comments about enjoying the view he gets while we walk ahead of him. I can tell from his voice that he is drunk. I ignore him and we continue walking – – I’m hoping he will lose interest and move on. But he gets closer, his voice is closer, and his language becomes more graphic. I grit my teeth and feel a mix of fear and anger familiar to way too many women.

He then steps up his harassment by passing by and turning to face us head on. Stopping us in our tracks.
I want to shove him out of our way, but my sister smiles at him as if he may be someone we know. As a deaf woman walking beside me, it occurs to me that she has heard NONE of his remarks. I had assumed we were both feeling the same level of distress until I remembered. She was calm and relaxed and looked completely confused as I grabbed her arm and pulled her into an open doorway. He continued walking away as I explained to her what she missed.
This was over 30 years ago and I still recall that feeling of how close we were, my sister and I, and how much our experience differed in those few moments.

Recently, a video camera followed a woman down the streets of New York while recording all the intimidating sexual comments flung at her along her way. She made eye contact with no one. Countless men hurling their remarks at one woman. She pretended not to hear them and kept walking. Had she been a deaf woman, would she have been aware of the verbal assault? Possibly “felt” it instead of “hearing” it?
A memorial was recently held for Roxanne Clanin – – a much-loved deaf woman in the Los Angeles area. Roxanne was taking a walk on a path shared by bicyclists. How many times, as a hearing person taking a walk, have I heard “Behind You!” yelled from an oncoming biker or jogger. This warning yelled to alert me that I was about to be passed by someone hoping NOT to startle me. It IS quite unnerving when the warning is not preceded by the jogger or biker. When you see or sense something in your peripheral vision quickly approaching, it’s not unusual to experience a momentary feeling of panic. From all accounts, this is what happened to Roxanne. She turned, panicked, and was struck by the oncoming biker. Was there a warning yelled? I Don’t know……but don’t we usually assume we are encountering a person who can hear us, unless we know otherwise? Roxanne suffered a sudden and tragically fatal fall.
As I write this, I would love to somehow alert all joggers, bikers, motorcyclists, skateboarders AND those behind the wheels of their cars. Best to assume your verbal warning might actually fall on deaf ears. If you are the one coming up from behind, you have the advantage of negotiating your approach based on your visual perspective. Slow down. Be extra cautious.
I’ve seen so many bumper stickers reading “Look Twice. Save a Life. Motorcyclists are Everywhere.”
We can say the same for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. They are Everywhere.

, , ,

About Evelyn

Evelyn Hunter is a SODA with years of experiential study in Deaf Culture. She attended Gallaudet University to immerse herself in this unique deaf world while working for the University and studying sign language to hone her skills. Evelyn has served in training, relationship sales, and marketing -- always seeking to expand awareness of Deaf Culture and the unique challenges the deaf face on a daily basis. The Sign Language Company has recently established a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and a website with a blog, as Evelyn coordinates the marketing and outreach efforts for the agency. Her goal is to attract new clients seeking exceptional service, while maintaining optimal relationships with clients who have selected The Sign Language Company for over 20 years.

View all posts by Evelyn

Connect with Us

Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply