The paper needs to express a personal knowledge and understanding the deaf culture, deaf community and language from the book “a man without words” from Susan Schaller.

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A Man Without Words

A Man Without Words is a vivid description of Susan Schaller’s experience with a 28 year-old deaf man by the name Ildefonso. While studying the American Sign Language (ASL), Schaller created a sign language program for hearing students. Later on, she became an interpreter for deaf persons at a community college where she met Ildefonso, a “languageless” deaf man. This essay expresses my personal understanding of the deaf culture and community based on an analysis of Schaller’s book.

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            Firstly, the deaf culture can be described as a set of beliefs, traditions, values, and practices for people with hearing impairment. They primarily use a combination of hand and facial gestures, called sign language, as a means of communication. Within this cultural context, deafness is viewed as a differentiating factor and not a disability. This view is also shared by hearing people who often like to be identified with the deaf community on the basis of shared beliefs and values. Such individuals include hearing sign language teachers and families of deaf people.

            On the other hand, the deaf community primarily comprises members who are born deaf. In some cases, an individual whose hearing becomes impaired later in life may choose to associate with this social group. The case of Ildefonso provides an illustration of some of the challenges that the deaf community faces. When he met Schaller, Ildefonso had absolutely no means of communication due to his lack of proficiency in sign language. After successfully learning basic sign communication from her, he revealed that there existed an entire community of people like him who had not learned any language their entire lives. Such a situation reflects negatively on the efforts made so far to improve access to sign language by the deaf community. People like Ildefonso can serve as a link between sign language teachers and deaf persons who desperately want to acquire it. Fortunately, Ildefonso was finally able to acquire sign language and to interact with other people in society.

Moreover, the deaf community has made great strides in fostering its values, strengthening interactions, promoting human rights, and promoting access to social amenities. Consequently, a new trend is emerging whereby the deaf culture has embraced open communication, open-mindedness, confidence, and self-acceptance. At the same time, it has endeavored to develop a close-knit support system that encourages interactions with non-members. Nevertheless, the hearing community sometimes tends to exhibit attitudes that can lead to the marginalization of deaf people such as social exclusion. For example, many hearing people who know sign language often fail to use it when communicating with their deaf counterparts. The latter may interpret such actions as a sign of rudeness, and this may lead to a rift between hearing and deaf communities.

            In light of these circumstances, the hearing community should endeavor to learn some basic facts about sign language. For instance, contrary to popular belief, there are over 100 distinct sign languages that are based on different characters. American Sign Language is the most dominant dialect globally. It is also important to note that the deaf community greatly relies on visual cues. Thus, efforts should be made to incorporate technology into all visual tools that they use to perform day-to-day tasks. In view of this situation, tremendous progress has been made to promote complete social inclusion for the community. For example, many multimedia works such as news broadcasts now have a visual component through which sign language can be embedded in order to reach out to visually impaired members of society.

            Schaller’s book provides crucial information on the challenges that the deaf community faces on a daily basis. With support from the hearing community, deaf people like Ildefonso can lead normal lives like everyone else. His case shows that there is hope for adult deaf people who have no means of communication because they have never been exposed to any language acquisition process. It is the responsibility of everyone in society to create safe environment in which deaf persons to acquire and use sign language for self-expression.

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