Acceptance into a different world by Paul Leonard

When I was about 9 or 10, I met my first lot of deaf people. Well, I say I met them, more accurately, I was the typical kid, that stared across the room of my aunt’s church to see a group of deaf people signing. Their hands wildly gesticulating, I had no clue what they meant. Mesmerised by this language for a brief minute or two for it all to be cut short by my aunt by her telling me, “oh just ignore them, they do funny things with their hands”.

A short while later, when I was 11, I started secondary school. Within my year, there were 6 deaf pupils and although not in my form group, some of us shared some classes. It was suggested by the head of the PHU (Partially Hearing Unit) that we learn some basic sign language. It was only one day a week during lunch hours and so I thought, “yea, why not – I can do this”. And so I went along. I don’t remember all we were taught, but I remember learning the alphabet over and over again, simple greetings and … no, must be getting old, forgotten the rest! Anyway, it only lasted for a term or so.

Fast forward another 4 or 5 years, and I met more deaf people. One day the interpreter got up and explained that she was an interpreter, her son was deaf and she was going to teach BSL Level 1. The same summer, I finished school and for “something to do”, I thought I would join up.

After being on the course for about 3 or 4 months, she reminded me of the fact her son was deaf and was lonely. Feeling, I was doing the right thing, I agreed to be his friend. And so we met. And we spoke … well, he signed and I nodded my head and tried to laugh in time with him, but not understanding a word he said! Sure, I could have a basic conversation but it was all very one sided. As time went on though, he must have loved the fact he had a new friend and so introduced me to another one of his friends. As time went on, they took me to BID (Birmingham Institute for the Deaf) where I met even more deaf people. Wow, what an eye opener for a hearing 16 year old kid!

Suddenly though, one day it must have all “clicked” in my head and I finally understood and was able to have 2 way conversations. As time went on through friends of friends and other circumstances, I met my wife who is also deaf. (We have 2 children, with our daughter understanding our every conversation for the most part, and BSL is the “home language” –  I am also sure that our son, who is 20 months old, won’t be long in becoming a bilingual CODA also.)

Now that I have been accepted into the deaf world, and due to my own choices and experiences of my “normal world” (the hearing world), I am, apart from work and our families, exclusively in the deaf world. The people I would consider to be my friends are deaf or what I term to be, “deaf connected” (interpreters/siblings/spouses of deaf etc.). My heart is very much for deaf people. I love deaf people, I love the way they are, they way they go about life, the “deaf goodbyes”, their culture, their everything.

Thank you for accepting me into your world!

~PAL

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One thought on “Acceptance into a different world by Paul Leonard

  1. As a hard of hearing person in the “hearing world” since childhood, this makes me want to find out more about deaf culture, and maybe even learn to sign 🙂

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