00:05 Chastity Ross: I am Chastity Ross and welcome to The Mix, a podcast of the Eastern Progress Media Network, and this is my co-host.
00:12 Ginny Whitehouse: I am Ginny Whitehouse and I'm the only person in this room who speaks one language. Everyone else in this room speaks American Sign Language expect me.
00:24 CR: Ginny, you're just gonna have to catch up. I hate that for you that you are a monolingual. Today we are going to be here with Shelby White and Brittney Caldwell. Lindsay Divine will be our interpreter for the both of them today. So Shelby, tell us a little bit about yourself.
00:43 Lindsay Divine: Well like you said, my name is Shelby White. I grew up in Lexington then moved to Richmond for school here at EKU. I'm majoring in deaf and hard-of-hearing education.
00:56 CR: Thank you. Miss Brittney, you wanna tell us about yourself?
01:00 LD: Hi, I'm Brittney. I'm from Arkansas. I met my fiance here in Kentucky. We have a son and another baby on the way. Right now, I'm a student here at EKU.
01:16 CR: What's your major?
01:19 LD: Deaf studies.
01:19 CR: Deaf studies as well. So do you both plan to teach or how do you plan to use your degrees when you're done?
01:26 LD: Well, Shelby says, "I plan to teach, I want to teach elementary school, I haven't quite decided if I wanna work at the deaf school or in a public school yet."
01:34 CR: Cool.
01:35 LD: Brittney says, "I would enjoy teaching, but I'm actually not majoring in education. I'm leaning more towards helping other deaf people in whatever capacity they may need."
01:48 CR: Awesome, awesome. So what is, then, deaf culture?
01:57 LD: You wanna take this one? Brittney is explaining that, "I'm from a hearing family but I'm very involved with deaf culture, the deaf community, because I went to a deaf school as a child. We had sports teams that were only deaf and hard of hearing players; cheerleaders as well. We have deaf clubs. Really, a lot of variety for things as far as things that we could be involved in. So that's a big part of deaf culture.
02:30 LD: And Shelby says, "Deaf culture is its own community. Deaf people can get together and have conversations just like anyone else, share information, pass down stories, a whole variety of things. We have our own rules, our own language, everything you would think about with a culture. We just really enjoy being together.
02:55 CR: One of the things I remember about when I was in college at my minor was... Or my major was, not deaf education, my major was special education but my minor was American Sign Language. And what was awesome is I often had to go to the sign lab and sometimes we would go to the mall in Lexington and we would... There'd be... It's sign club, so you just kinda show up and go. And I remember being very worried, like, "How am I gonna sign with one arm? Are they gonna accept me? How's this gonna work?" And very, very quickly the deaf culture completely scooped us up, scooped me up and said, "Ah, most of us sign with one hand all the time anyway, so you'll fit right in." So it was, it was very comfortable and very welcoming. I enjoyed being asked questions about my disability straight away. I love that deaf culture doesn't wait and they don't do the niceties of waiting around to ask, "Hey, where's your arm? Hey, where's your leg?" And once that conversation was done, it was done forever, and then we all kind of knew about each other and could move on. So I actually appreciated that and thought it was very welcoming and helpful.
04:00 LD: Yeah, that's deaf culture, they're very straightforward. They just wanna learn as... We want to learn as much as possible about you, who you are as a person. It's not meant in any way to be offensive. We're just curious.
04:10 CR: You said, Shelby, that there are some rules in deaf culture. Can you explain what are some of the rules or customs or practices?
04:22 LD: Well, for older deaf people, they want most deaf kids to go to deaf schools. Generally, that doesn't happen. Lots of kids are mainstream nowadays. Another rule would be in a deaf get-together, only sign. You don't speak, you don't use your voice. It's frowned upon just because with the inability to hear the English language, it's leaving people out when you don't use sign language around deaf people. For us also, I know in hearing culture to point at someone is rude, but in deaf culture, it's not, it's not offensive at all. Information sharing is really, really important. And like I said, we're very direct, we don't beat around the bush, those kinds of rules.
05:15 LD: Brittney is adding, "We're very open, we we're very welcoming. We want everyone to use the same language. There's fewer barriers that way. It's really about mutual respect."
05:29 CR: Another thing that I remember from deaf culture when I was in college is that you don't, hearing people don't get to choose their own sign name. So I had to wait until someone in the deaf community gave me a sign name. I couldn't choose it for myself because it was not mine to choose. So they had to decide what my sign name was going to be. And mine was perfect, it was, well, perfect for me, but I wasn't... And I thought that was really cool that it was like... That lets you know that you are accepted and a part of the group that they pick it for you and say, "Hey, this is how we will refer to you." I think that's awesome, I loved it.
06:10 LD: And that actually, Brittney is mentioning, "The giving of a sign name, like my sign name is related to a scar that I had since I was young. Friends of mine from Gallaudet University gave me my sign name. So most sign names have a meaning behind them.
06:30 LD: Shelby's sign name is in reference to her hair. "The reason behind giving sign names," Shelby is mentioning, "And the reason that there are rules behind how that is because we don't want hearing people to think... Honestly, we don't want them to think that they can start creating signs on their own. It's a language in and of itself, and as such, we kind of like to control who can make up the signs, including sign names."
07:04 CR: I did not know that. I just learned something today. I did not realize that that was a lot of why, is because we don't want... You don't want people just to create their own language kind of... Because I can see how that can happen. A lot of times when there's a small group of people and you have a larger group of people and they wanna come in, they tend to kinda take over whether they mean to or not. And creating your own sign name would be a quick way to start creating new signs, because well, we can hear and we can do this so we just created this old secondary language, the language that you use and develop and love.
07:36 GW: Chastity, I have to ask, what does your sign name reference?
07:43 CR: My sign name was given to me by the beautiful woman that worked in the sign lab for years, and her name escapes me because I forget everybody's name, it's not personal. But she gave me the sign name of this, which is a C for Chastity, but it went across a smile because I'm usually smiling...
08:00 LD: Do you usually smile?
08:00 CR: I'm usually smiling.
08:01 GW: Chastity always smiles.
08:02 CR: And so she thought that was perfect, so mine has always been that.
08:05 GW: That's awesome.
08:06 CR: That's how I got my sign name.
08:08 GW: Shelby, I interrupted you, my apologies.
08:11 LD: Oh, you're okay.
08:12 GW: Okay.
08:12 LD: I was finished.
08:13 GW: Oh, good, alright.
08:15 CR: Do you... As a person with a disability, I've always wondered, and I'm sure I asked at one point and maybe have forgotten, do you both consider being deaf a disability?
08:30 LD: Shelby just saw a Facebook post on this topic recently, and it said, "If a person is in a community with no communication barriers, they're not disabled. If there is a communication barrier then they are disabled in that setting." So really, I guess it depends on if we are faced with that barrier at that moment. But the disability is focusing on something that we can't do. So it just kind of depends.
09:11 LD: This is Brittney: "I don't label myself as disabled, but on paperwork, I do still check the disabled box. I can drive, I have children, I can work, I have a life. I don't see myself as disabled, but on paper, yes, I do have to check that box.
09:34 CR: So tell us a little... You mentioned that you drive, Brittney. There are going to be people who may go, "Oh, that's... I never thought about that." So really, the only thing that you don't do that we do when we drive is... You're not necessarily able to hear, but how do you use your other senses and your language... It's just all visual, I guess.
09:56 LD: Yes, our visual acuity for deaf people typically have much stronger visual senses. Deafness is not the only disability, of course. There are lots of people who have what we would consider deaf-plus, which may be a person who is deaf but also has CP or some other overlying disability. Deaf can do anything. There are just some situations where they may be deaf-plus where they have some extenuating circumstances.
10:33 CR: Gotcha.
10:34 LD: Shelby is saying, "Actually, I have what's called Usher syndrome. So I would be considered deaf-plus because I also have a visual... Vision loss. But I still have enough vision that I can drive right now. In the future, we really don't know what that's gonna look like for me.
10:58 CR: So just to play the ignorant card here, so your service dog is not because you're deaf, your service dog is to assist with your vision loss?
11:09 LD: No, actually. No, actually. We got her seven years ago before I knew about my vision loss.
11:15 CR: Okay.
11:17 LD: So she is actually for my deafness, and a little bit with my... I have some mobility issues. I have some nerve damage, which is a whole nother long story in and of itself, but she helps with that. And he is a sweet dog, Brittney says.
11:34 CR: He really is. So we've talked about driving, and we've talked about a dog assisting, talk a little bit more about how you move through a hearing world as opposed to the deaf world. How do you move through a hearing world with classes, with situations when you encounter people who are unable to speak American Sign Language?
12:05 LD: "We are very reliant on interpreters," says Shelby. "We're very skilled at gestures. We will write back and forth, text on our phones. We are so experienced with living in the hearing world that we'll find a way to communicate.
12:23 LD: As Brittney says, "It's really not necessarily an issue. I have to be patient. I've seen some deaf people who are not patient with hearing people who are unable to communicate, but I think part of why I do a little better maybe because I grew up in a hearing family. I've never had anything happen involving the police or anything that would be a problem. The only thing I've noticed is I am a pretty well-known person at Starbucks, so I can go through the drive-through and they would just wave to the camera and they know my order. So even drive-throughs, sometimes I'm able to just pull right through and pay and go.
13:08 CR: That's awesome.
13:10 GW: So do you have friends who don't sign and are part of the hearing community?
13:19 LD: Shelby says, "Well, we both have hearing families and I have some hearing friends. Most of my friends have been good about learning sign, they're very fascinated by it, honestly, so they've been willing to learn."
13:39 LD: Brittney says, "It really depends on an individual's motivation, if they want to learn, they will."
13:46 LD: And Shelby says, "We'll figure out how to communicate in some way. But that does not mean that every encounter with hearing people is positive."
14:00 CR: Can you talk a little more about that?
14:03 LD: "Well, for example, if I go into a restaurant and they don't know how to communicate with me, even if I'm willing to write back and forth with the server, sometimes they seem irritated or they have no patience, they have no interest in communicating with me, they don't even wanna find a piece of paper, they act frustrated with me and then I get frustrated with them. All I want is to eat. That is a challenge," Brittney says.
14:37 LD: Shelby is adding, "Unfortunately, with family, sometimes if they have not learned to sign, they will, and it may be unintentional, but they will tend to ignore us or they may be talking, and we see the laughter, we see the conversation happening, and when we ask to be filled in, they'll just tell us, 'Oh, we'll tell you later.' And then it's very rare that they do."
15:08 CR: One of the things that I wonder if I'm hearing you say, Shelby, is that sometimes there is a... Or can be this sense of loneliness, where everybody kind of is in this world that you can't hear and communicate in. And how... I know now that you're here in college, you are surrounded, there a lot more people that use American Sign Language and that are deaf 'cause we've got the program here. And you went to Gallaudet, correct, Brittney? Did you go to Gallaudet?
15:42 LD: Well yes, I did go to Gallaudet first for two years.
15:44 CR: And I feel like that whole town speaks American Sign Language. Gallaudet's a pretty big...
15:48 LD: Yes, it's full of deaf people.
15:50 CR: It's a huge deaf school and deaf Starbucks and... How would you advise somebody who is in a hearing family and doesn't have a tribe of American Sign Language folks to speak with and communicate with, to help with that sense of loneliness and being isolated and having a language that nobody really shares with them, other than maybe their interpreter at school or... I can imagine that that could be very lonely growing up, and then having to wait until you either get to college or go somewhere specifically that has more deaf folks, 'cause a lot of people, like Shelby said, are mainstreaming and they're not going to all-deaf schools, so they're just kind of the person in their school or one or two. So talk about what your advice would be to the 10-year-old that feels kind of lonely and that are deaf and are speaking American Sign Language by themselves?
16:47 LD: Brittney: "I'll speak to that. I went through the same thing with my hearing family and I have seen it happen with deaf friends of hearing family. I was actually very lucky because my mom and brother chose to sign, but the rest of my family is a lot of gesture. So typically on vacations, vacations for me were very isolating. But I had to figure out what I was gonna do, maybe I decided for that week on vacation I would take care of my cousin's baby or something to keep me busy. But in general, I'd like to honestly speak more to the parents to tell them, 'Make sure you're involved with your kid, don't leave them out. Make an effort to communicate with them. You have to be willing to do that, that shouldn't be on the child.' Sometimes, when deaf people become older, that's when they'll become involved with the deaf family or friend group. They want that closeness, that community. Luckily, during my high school years, I had a godmother who was deaf and who had a deaf family as well, so I would typically go to her holidays instead of my own family's. So that really kind of depends on... It depends on the situation.
18:12 CR: Wow. What are your thoughts about that, Shelby? You're a little bit younger. They can't see any of us, but Shelby is a little bit younger, and you don't have kids yet, so what... You're kind of, not fresh out of high school, but you're what, 20?
18:25 LD: I'm 25.
18:28 CR: No, you're not 25, I don't think you are.
18:29 LD: I'm 25 actually.
18:30 CR: That's not true, scratch all of that out. So whatever, she's 25. But you're a little bit... You're in the young... You remember being in highschool.
18:39 GW: She's younger than you, Chasity.
18:40 CR: Everybody is younger than me. [chuckle] You remember being in high school and what that was like. What was that like and what advice would you have for somebody that was 15 years old or 10, that are going through that now?
18:52 LD: Don't give up. Try to find a person who will communicate. If not, if you could just find one person, one person to open up to, that's helpful. Even if it's just one hearing person who's willing to learn for you and who's willing to talk to you and be that person for you.
19:20 CR: That's awesome. That's excellent.
19:23 LD: I mean my big advice probably wouldn't even be for the deaf person, it would... Because deaf people are good about finding other deaf people. My advice would be to the hearing people, to be patient, let us be included. Let us try to find a way to communicate.
19:48 CR: It looks like you kind of answered my last question, 'cause my last question, Shelby, is what do hearing people not get about the deaf culture and deaf people and what do we need to know? It sounds like you kind of answered a lot of that about how we need to remember to be patient. We need to remember to give time for communication and allow for different ways to do it. Do you have anything else that you feel like it'd be really helpful for the non-deaf community to understand?
20:15 LD: We can do everything just like you can except hear. Brittney was gonna echo the exact same sentiments. "I'm curious," Brittney's asking, "Who is that quote from? Do you know who that quote is from?" No, I can't remember. "But that, "Brittney says, "is kind of a famous quote within the deaf community. Hearing people, and it's something that we laugh about sometimes, think that we can't have children, think that we can't drive, think that we can't do anything really, but honestly, we can do everything that you can do except hear. And I do wanna let you all know that there are some hard of hearing people that utilize both languages, they can speak and read lips, but they also sign. So just a little tidbit, we don't necessarily, though, as deaf people, choose to use our voice if we don't want to.
21:21 CR: Makes perfect sense, I understand that. Quick segue, [21:28] ____ was my sign language... My American Sign Language teacher when I was in college. And one of the best stories she told us was when she had her baby, her first baby, and the baby was... She and her friend had come over and her and her friend were just talking away having a big time. And apparently, the baby was crying and they couldn't hear the baby crying, and so eventually her son raises his little hands up and goes like this and just moves his hands in the air, and then they all both go and they see him and then they got his... "Oh, good mommy's looking at me now?" And he was able to get his needs met. And that was well before he could talk, and she couldn't hear him but he made it work. So just remembering that everybody adapts and that we have to just...
22:17 LD: My son actually has done the same thing. Shelby: "Babies can learn to move those gross... Can learn those gross motor skills well before the ability to speak, so signing is very beneficial.
22:33 CR: Yes. So your baby has done, Brittney?
22:37 CR: Oh yes. Any time that he needs to get my attention, he'll pull on my clothes or he'll sign that he's finished if he's finished with his meal, but he is learning sign language for sure.
22:48 GW: Fantastic. So just a reminder that we all adapt. Babies adapt to us, we adapt to babies, that means everybody else can too, we can adapt to the world around us. Thank you both so much for coming to see us, we really appreciate you.
23:01 GW: Shelby, Brittney is there anything else you want to add to what we've discussed, today?
23:12 LD: "Don't be afraid to say hello to us," Brittney says. "We won't bite," Shelby mentions.
23:20 LD: Remember, we're just like you.
23:23 GW: Absolutely. Thank you both. You have been listening to The Mix. I'm Ginny Whitehouse with Chasity Ross. We've been talking with Shelby White and Brittney Caldwell. Our producer is Kristen Dean. The Mix is a podcast with the eastern Podcast Network.