by Nancy Green | 14 November 2020
I chose an article titled “The pandemic’s impact of kids in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community – and how parents and educators are creating their new normal” by Danielle Garrand, Social Media Producer and trending reporter for CBS News.
This article looks at the struggles that hearing parents of Deaf or Hard of Hearing children have faced since the pandemic hit. It looks at the socialization and language aspects of the Deaf culture. While school closings across the nation last March affected families in many different ways, the closing of schools for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing brought many levels of emotions. “Since over 90% of children who are deaf[i] being born to hearing parents, there can be a language gap at home.”[ii] While many hearing parents are learning American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with their children, they are not fluent or able to sign to class specific topics. In these instances, technology has been more important than ever because providing children access to ASL is an important aspect of the Deaf culture.
For some families, socialization is a bigger concern than language. “Socializing is a very important value of Deaf culture…In a society where the Deaf are commonly misunderstood, the support of others is more than necessary.”[iii] Not being able to interact with peers can be frustrating, even to kids who have language access at home. For those kids who have little to no language at home, this can lead to feeling isolated. Once again, the importance of technology comes into play. While many schools have returned to in-person learning, not all have done so. For those students who have not been able to return to in-person learning, many educators are working hard to make sure their students are connected to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. For example, A Deaf and Hard of Hearing teacher from Spring Creek Elementary in Eugene, Oregon has been hosting a “’Deaf Club’ via Zoom, where students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing of all ages in the school, and who are homeschooled, can come together…Deaf Club is probably one of the most important times of their school day or week where they have access to Deaf culture, signing adults and their peers.”[iv]
Another aspect of language access is face masks. One of the five parameters of ASL is non-manual markers, such as facial expressions. Facial expressions are an important part of ASL grammar, especially mouth movements. Mouth movements are used to “convey an adverb, adjective or other more descriptive meaning when signing certain ASL words.”[v] With the mouth covered, much information can be lost or misunderstood. Masks also make it difficult for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing who are able to lip read, do so.
Overall, I believe the author of this article did a good job in bringing to light some of struggles of the Deaf community during the pandemic. The need for socialization and sign language are two important values in the Deaf culture. While this article related to the children of the Deaf community, I do believe their struggles are also shared with Deaf and Hard of Hearing adults
[i] (Mitchell RE)
[v] (Jay, Don’t Just Sign, Communicate: A Students Guide to Mastering ASL Grammar)
Garrand, Danielle. “The pandemic’s impact on kids in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community — and how parents and educators are creating their new normal.” 29 October 2020. CBS News.com. 10 November 2020.
Jay, Michelle. A Students Guide to ASL and the Deaf Community. Los Angles: Judea Media LLC, 2011. Book – PDF format.
—. Don’t Just Sign, Communicate: A Students Guide to Mastering ASL Grammar. Los Angles, CA: Judea Media, LLC, 2011. PDF.
Mitchell RE, Karchmer MA. “Chasing the mythical ten percent: Parental hearing status of deaf and hard of hearing students in the United States.” Sign Language Studies. 2004. 138-163.
National Association of the Deaf. 2020. 2020.