‘A Few Snapshots Of My Life As A CODA’ by Sara Huang


As far as CODAs go, I was a pretty straight-laced kid. I never snuck out and tried my best to follow household rules. But there were definitely times when I used my parents’ deafness to my advantage. I loved to listen to music LOUD. I’d crank it up at home and my parents were none the wiser. Other neighbors apparently griped and called us as THAT house. The loud house.

Going to backtrack. For the first seven years of my life, I was home-schooled by my mom and pretty much existed in a deaf bubble. During those years, I developed some “deaf habits”. I spoke VERY loudly, never really cared about how loud I was being, copied the way my parents pronounced words (musk-el instead of muscle) and always read books out loud. I never learned to read silently. I’d pass gas whenever I wanted, not knowing it was embarrassing to do it in public. When I finally went to public school, carrying on with all these habits, I got a rude awakening. My peers thought I was very odd and I was often excluded. I had a very lovely teacher though. She got me though some very tough times.

I also went through a period when I thought my parents weren’t really deaf. I was young; maybe six. At the dinner table, I asked my mom, “Are you really totally deaf?” She answered “Yes”, but suspicious six year old me demanded proof. I screamed at the top of my lungs and asked if she heard me. She said “No.” Unsatisfied, I shrieked even louder and asked again. Answer was still no. Stubbornly, I took a deep breath and screeched as loudly possible. I asked if she could hear that. She said, “Barely,” and told me to cut it out. I stopped questioning her after that.



I was also one of those CODAs that couldn’t sign well. I developed odd habits. At first, I’d sign with just one hand. Then I became completely reliant on fingerspelling everything. My parents tried to break my habits, but I wouldn’t stop. Communication issues became a major issue later on, especially when I was getting bullied at school. My mom would ask me what the matter was because she could see I looked depressed, and I’d just clam up because I didn’t know how to express my feelings to her.

I can sign pretty fluently now. I think it happened after I moved to Taiwan. I realized how precious my family was and really wanted to interact with my parents on a deeper level. I studied books, watched YouTube videos, and Skyped frequently with my mom. We can talk about almost anything now, and I’m still learning. I came open up to my parents about just anything.

Unsure how to wrap this up, but I hope you have enjoyed these few snapshots of my life as a CODA. It is a major part of my identity and I am proud to be one.


By Sara Huang.

Sara Huang with a grasshopper made out of grass.

Sara Huang, with a grasshopper made out of grass.


Family Are Half The Problem? by Mervyn James

Recently in the USA, I read about a proposed bill to prevent family members being allowed to Interpret for deaf who may have been abused in police abuse/investigation cases. Frankly, I am surprised it is ever allowed to happen anyway. This issue is a particular ‘hobby horse’ of mine and having hearing family offer me their help, and seeing their surprise at my refusal, (And calling me ungrateful!), I see this very sensible bill suggestion as a vital part in making deaf aware of what they are actually doing to limit the support they need, and thus with this case I read, then allowing the abuser, to further abuse.

This Bill is LONG overdue, but why is there no such effective ruling in the United Kingdom? Or opposition to deaf groups that fiercely defend the right of family support, simply because they do not understand the issues involved? The deaf community has been very slow in taking up professional and unbiased support, and their reliance on family members can only mean they will suffer more abuses too, some by default, others by design. In Wales a deaf mother with 3 children STILL relied on her 77yr old mother to help her at the GP’s after she refused to use a terp supplied by the Dr claiming she had a right to use whoever she wanted, a right an BDA advisor defended (and no doubt her Dr approves of!). Or the 18yr youth in Blaina who had never attended the Doc with an interpreter in his life… or made any calls to them.

But the bill in the USA would only limit the ‘ban’ to suspected sexual abuse cases, when there should be a blanket ban on ALL family acting as bona-fide interpreters who are not even qualified, or even eligible by age. That ban should extend to health and every other area, and for deaf to be prevented from using family support even by choice, if it means that family member is acting as an interpreter without skills.

The confusion whereby deaf ardently campaign against untrained support, whilst STILL themselves  using that unqualified help  to cover 65% of all help THEY get, and thus killing own support demand,  is a glaring expose’ of how deaf are pretty much architects of their own access limitation. Is the reliance on family due to love? Or sheer laziness or inability to wean themselves away from that type of help?  We read of horrifying cases of 7yr olds acting as terps, going to Drs to discuss sex and other personal health issues with parents, children expected to tell terminally ill parents about their own forthcoming demise… and even Banks, to discuss personal accounts by what is obviously biased, untrained and definitely NOT neutral help. No chance of cutting brother Jim out of your will when he is translating for you! As suggested in the case of suspected abuses, it is totally out of line to allow a family member who may be the one abusing you, to translate on your behalf…

By all means take your family member with you if you are too nervous, by NO Means allow them to then translate or even make your decisions for you. Would other readers support the ‘NO FAMILY HELP PLEASE’ approach? Or do they still reserve the right to use who they want? Some deaf excuse it all by saying, ‘My support isn’t there, I really have no choice.’ Of course you DO, and the law exists to empower. Factually, the illogic of the statement has missed the point, you don’t ask, then, you won’t get either.

We battle daily systems trying to circumvent access by asking us to ‘Bring a family member with you.’, or ‘Give us your hearing family contacts then we won’t have to ‘bother’ you with details…’ If the deaf cannot see the total wrongness of all this, then why campaign for BSL or any other access at all, if basically they intend to use family anyway? I advised one hearing mother to refuse, and force her deaf child to ask for pro help, at least, make that call on their behalf to set them on the right path, she totally refused stating my advice was tantamount to asking her to neglect her own child.

So hearing family need to get wise too, do they even know if the terps they get are suitably qualified is particular fields of health etc….. Let’s face it, when you are no longer there, what legacy have you left that deaf family member who can no longer rely on you and is pretty incapable of asking for it elsewhere? Also what are you teaching that deaf family member? It’s certainly not self-reliance is it? Maybe Mum and dad prefer to have their children reliant on them, or are being over-protective. Start day one, get a terp in straight away and/or teach your child to do it themselves.

By Mervyn James who can also be found “At The Rim”.

Mr Mervyn James

Mr Mervyn James


One Year On – Something Inside So Strong.

Upon reflection on how The Tree House has been nurtured since the seed of reality was first planted one year ago, how it has grown into a strong foundation and radiates with the warmth of the light from within. It is those who are able to welcome, include and consider diversity – all the various communication needs or abilities regardless, who exhibit a true strength of character.

Combine that strength with a sense of mutual respect for all and genuine intent to effect change for the better. Barriers are slowly but surely being broken down as the way forwards is being paved by those unsung, for simply being true to themselves and others in standing tall with courage.

With each and every one of you, wherever you may be – over the past year, there has been something inside growing ever so strong. Moreover, because of you wanting to be accepted for whom you may be and to have your voice – you are why we continue so. Onwards and upwards – wherever it may take us.

We are truly honoured to have been graced with the pleasure of your company.

Here we humbly share with you our very first anniversary tribute.

Thank YOU!

Can you tell who is hearing, hard of hearing, deaf or deafened in this video? Can you tell who relies solely on sign language to get by? Can you tell who is a CODA? Can you tell who is a lip-reader? Can you tell who tries their best to adapt to present company? No because that is the beauty of being so diverse and inclusive of all. All of which is not obvious in making this video and soundtrack possible.

Unfortunately we could not include all the clips and photos we were provided for this compilation as we sadly could not fit it all in order to show the full extent of the diversity. Thanks ever so, to all of you who contributed and supported us in the making of this video. It is very much appreciated – more than you realise. Please take your hats off to Paul for his time and patience in editing and compiling the videos together which produced the awesome final cut.  

The full lyrics to the sound track on our video can be found by clicking on this link: (Something Inside) So Strong by Labi Siffre.

To view Sambuca’s or Danielle William’s (full length) signed song to the soundtrack “Something inside so strong” please click on these links: Sambuca’s signed song or Danielle William’s signed song.

Please feel free to join our rather diverse Facebook discussion group.

To be notified instantly of any new articles by The Tree House, please feel free to follow us on Twitter @treehouseviews, subscribe to our Facebook page and/or add us to your circle on Google + .

 Positivity rules! 

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

La Famille Bélier / The Bélier Family

The French film, “La Famille Bélier” (The Bélier Family) is apparently being boycotted. Why? One may ask.

Here is a couple of (quoted) paragraphs from the source to give you an insight;

“The film uses hearing actors to play the roles of deaf characters, the result of which is an embarrassing and crass interpretation of deaf culture and sign language. Make no mistake, this is like blacking up for the Black and White Minstrel Show. Couldn’t find any deaf actors? Just get some hearing ones to wave their hands about. It shows a level of disrespect for deaf people and disregard for a genuine language with the nuances of any spoken language. In the UK there is a pool of experienced deaf actors and sign language interpreters. If the same exist in France, shouldn’t the makers of Le Famille Bélier have called upon them? And if they don’t exist, we should be asking why not.

Deaf people’s culture and experiences have long been appropriated for the fascination and entertainment of others, and in the process kneaded into a bastardisation bearing no resemblance to real-life experiences, because it is rare that deaf people are actually involved in the production process. Accurate representation of deafness is a good thing, it can entertain and educate in equal measures – but films and TV shows about deaf characters, told through a hearing lens, using hearing actors with pidgin sign language, are demeaning, depressing and cause more damage then good.

My initial reaction after reading through it all was to think objectively (as always) and responded to several links of the source (as written by Rebecca Atkinson of The Guardian) which is being widely publically shared hence my now, very public thought on this topic.

When the casting team find an actor or actress who happens to be deaf and experienced enough to play the part satisfactorily then they may sign them. Just like with the Olympics, if athletes meet the standards they then qualify to compete. The very same qualification process applies to deaf sportspeople too.

I do not see why (deaf) people seem to keep spitting their dummies out all the time – has any deaf people actually auditioned for the part?? Some are dubious as to whether they actively sought deaf actors out for the part but nonetheless I am sure they advertised and did their research as all films and actors do as that is their job and one would hope they fulfilled the requirements.

It is being portrayed overall as an insult to the deaf community when this does not mean it is the general consensus of the whole yet very diverse deaf community but individual interpretations based on personal experiences and emotions which are most likely reactions upon impulse. Just because some people are boycotting this film whilst encouraging others to do the same, does not mean everyone else needs to follow suit.

 “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristotle.

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

KODA in Kindergarten Holiday Concert.

I saw this last winter and came across it once again so just had to share with our beloved dwellers! Carpe diem x

“Very entertaining video of a KODA (kid of deaf adults) enthusiastically singing holiday songs using sign language and animated facial expressions. Watch this and it would be the best 3:40 minutes you’ve spent in your day.”

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

I Long To Be….

There are barriers that our deafness prevents us from fulfilling certain aspects of life so I set dwellers a task to finish this sentence according to our own interpretations and dreams for in dreams are seeds planted of reality.

“I long to be….”

For in dreams are seeds planted of reality.

“For in dreams are seeds planted of reality.”

 I long to be free as a bird.

I long to be confident.

I long to be loved for being me.

I long to have stress free conversations, access to services where everyone is aware of our needs.

I long to be a performer on the stage where I warm people’s hearts and put a smile on their faces for days weeks and even years later.

I long to be able to give my daughter the best possible future without having to constantly chase education and medical professionals.

I long to work for education authorities who understand that a deaf child is not going to “get better” next year, and yes, they will need continued support.

I long to be someone who can make a difference and inspire others too.

I long to be given more access to services without having to constantly struggle with basic things like shopping, ordering food in a restaurant, or travelling.

I long to work somewhere I feel I belong, where I don’t feel socially isolated, and where colleagues are deaf aware, or willing to learn deaf awareness.

I long for access but the crafty part of me would like to continue crafty conversations where not everyone understands!

I long to be understood.

I long for a world where web live chat is a common alternative to phone calls!

I long for the day when hearing people no longer frown at me and say ‘I telephoned “Joe Bloggs” [whose deaf] yesterday but they didn’t answer the phone??!’

I long to see the technology we REALLY need to communicate (as deaf people) SPEED UP …and coming up to speed!

I long to see society take responsibility for excluding us in developments, new services, buildings etc.

I long for people to understand that Hearing Aids are great, but do not “solve” my “problem”.

I long to know if I’m meant to feel complimented or insulted when people say to me ”you’re deaf, really? Wow don’t you do well’

I long for hearing people to simply accept us as one of them.

I long to see an approved national independent governing body for all deaf issues.

I long to see people no longer dictating and undermining others.

I long to be a classroom teacher still, a job I have done for 30 years.

I long to be understood by the hearing community (of which I am part) and not have them say when I say I work with deaf people stupid things like ‘oh, you must know Braille’.

I long to read people’s minds… so I don’t have to make attempts at listening to them.

I long to be awarded a life-long exemption certificate from the hassles of having to prove I have not miraculously become hearing due to the inefficiency of the government and their services.

I long to be able to sing along with everyone else as I can hear the words of a song or even just be able to know what the song is and who the artist is.

I long for people to stop hanging up on type talk calls!!

I long to be taken seriously by all. Too often are my views brushed aside or disregarded simply because I won’t always be as confident in voicing my views as a deaf person in a mass of hearing people, and also some disregard because I am still young.

I long for labels to be dropped – at the end of the day we are all human, we all live on one planet and we all have the right to be ourselves – throw the labels away.

I long to able to occasionally be able to take back everything I’ve said, when I’ve answered a question only to find out I misheard and nothing I said makes sense in the conversation.

I long to be able to go about living my life the way I want to without having to adapt to what society insists we do!

I long to be always a Spring Chicken.

I long to open up narrow minded people to the wonderful and diverse world we are a part of as it is they who create barriers and divisions!

I long to see access rights for all the various communication needs and abilities.

I long to be accepted for the intelligent person I am.

I long to be considered as an equal and included as an equal based on justice.

I long to be listened to…..

~ SJ (Sara Jae)