“In the Deaf world and the hearing world– you have these two separate things– technology helps living in the hearing world a ton. My phone, for example, has dictation that I can click on. You could speak, and it pops up with bold sentences. I can put it in use for communicating with hearing people. If I take my dog to the vet, I have my phone dictate what the doctor is saying. The dictation of the doctor’s instruction can be saved in the data. That alone has helped me have access into the hearing world.
In the Deaf world, technology has also made an impact. I’ve noticed that socializing, like human contact, has kind of been removed by technology. In the past, especially at Gallaudet and any Deaf clubhouse, the Deaf would come together and hang out. There wouldn’t be texting going on or anything like that. Every week, or every month, there were different events. But then since technology has increased, people just communicate more through text messaging. There’s still positives and negatives to technology. But the biggest positive is that look, I can communicate with you through the VRS services, for this interview.
As for captions, I try to avoid watching movies that do not include captions. Actually, I refuse to watch a movie without captions. I refuse to do it at all. It’s cringing frustrating when you go to the movie theater to watch a movie, and you have to deal with the glasses or the one where you had to adjust into your cupholder, hoping no one bumps into it. There are a number of different kinds of devices in theaters. The worst one is the rear window captioning. It’s a reflective glass where you read the caption. The captions come from an LED display monitor in the back of the theater. Even with the modern glass I struggled with how I line up the captions through the glasses on the screen. I get really disappointed whenever the glass skips a line or you miss a joke. (I can see the audience laughing.)
You miss out on a lot of the information. It’s agonizing for our movie experiences as Deaf people. When I come to a theater expecting captioning and there are no captions al all, then I get nauseated. It ruins the movie-going experience too, especially when there’s a glitch in the captioning device. It’s awful when the captions are delayed – I get behind with the story. Live captioning shares a similar problem, especially when watching the news. Those issues are challenging us to fix it.”
“When I was a kid I loved picture books – any kind of picture books. I’m a visual person, not a linguistics person.
I had to grow up with SEE. I’m pretty good with English. But still, I still struggle with expressing English. ASL is a visual-dependence language– I get engrossed in it. When you asked me for an interview, the method was either using a videophone or email. I chose the videophone. If I chose using the email to respond, then I’d have a harder time answering your questions. ASL gave me that confidence to express myself. That’s the best thing about being Deaf.
A few years ago, I started a new hobby of board games. Over the years, I noticed socializing/playing with hearing people using a board game made communication easier. Since we all know the rules to play the games, we didn’t have to face the language barrier. All board games have set rules that we followed. It was easy to teach them the sign language through the board game rulebook. This is a great way to share and expose ASL to anyone who wants to learn/play.
Combining ASL and the board games, the communication went smoothly because of how we use visual cues. I embolden hearing people to develop connections with the deaf people and vice versa. Any kind of socializing through a game– I highly encourage that. I apply this method of gaming and signing a lot in my classroom now. It benefits the students while making it fun.
ASL is what I truly identify with my culture. This language is beautiful and robust. I feel capable and committed to ASL.”
“I grew up, identifying myself as a big D, capital D – Deaf. I emphasize that because of the culture of my deafness. But I wasn’t really sure if I was hard of hearing or not. I had a lot of friends who signed, but all of them signed English, called S-E-E, SEE. So I was kind of stuck. But I didn’t meet a lot of deaf people out in the community.
Then when I entered high school, I started to meet different people, and in college too. That’s when my bubble burst. Oh, man, did I really get engrossed in everything! I still struggled with my identity during that time. I went to Gallaudet, and I also had my own little culture from growing up. And I had to assess myself.
Then I felt like I was really a Deaf person very strongly. So I really got motivated to match with the ASL. And that’s when I became and started to identify with the big D capital Deaf.”
“There are so many crazy myths [about Deaf people] out there. I think my top ‘favorite’ one is, ‘All Deaf people can lip-read.’
I remember when I first was asked if all Deaf people could do that and I was like, ‘Uhmm… Can you even lip-read? Oh, you can’t? Because it’s hard right?’
I think it’s funny how easy some people think lip reading is until they’ve actually tried it themselves. Then after they’ve tried it they are like, ‘Oh wow, this is WAY harder than I thought.’”
“I am the first Deaf person in my family. When I was in the first grade my parents found out that I had a hearing loss. But we have no idea what might have caused it. It was just something that sort of happened.
It’s hard to remember exactly how much sound I could/couldn’t hear back then. But from what I know, when I was younger, I had a mild hearing loss. Then over time, my hearing just kept dropping. Now I have a severe/profound-ish hearing loss.
I grew up being the only Deaf person I really knew so I didn’t have any Deaf/HoH role models around me to relate to. Because of that, for years I felt very hopeless, alone, and isolated. I didn’t have anyone to connect with as a deaf person.
So whenever I get comments/messages from other Deaf/HoH people telling me they can relate to my content… It’s hands down one of the best feelings in the world.”
“I adapted, but I didn’t know what was going on. And it took a couple of years before I was diagnosed with what was going on. But I struggled.
I’m adapted to blindness. It’s not my greatest struggle.
I’ve been totally blind for about 30 years, and the hardest thing for me to overcome is the assumptions of sighted people. Not blindness itself, but the assumptions of sighted people. Their preconceptions, their prejudice of what it’s like to be blind.
The blind label encumbers a whole bunch of, like you say, spectrum of blindness. I’m totally blind, and so when I function, people think I’m mysterious or magical or, how do you do that? But it’s a slippery slope. When you don’t function, people think that you can’t function at all, and actually, people start talking to you louder, as if you can’t hear or grabbing hold of you as if you can’t walk.
This is the best time in history to be a blind person. Technology, the adaptive aids and equipment, that dogs are, by law, supposed to be available and you can take them anywhere. We live in a very good time for blind people.”
“I’m trained as a sculptor. I have degrees in industrial design. But then I started to go blind, and it would make more sense for me to be a sculptor. I know how to cast and foundry work and all that stuff.
Retinitis pigmentosa is an umbrella term for a number of maladies that begin taking your vision from the outside of the retina and work their way in, building a pigment– pigmentosa pigment. And eventually, it comes in and it clouds over the macula. So it closes off vision, similar to a camera dilating down.
I was a contractor. I was building residential buildings, and I was doing sculpture.
But blind people don’t have much money, and so I live in a tiny cottage with a tiny studio in a tiny plot of land. And I was doing huge sculptures.
One or two of my sculptures could inundate or just completely cover the land that I own. And so I needed something smaller, and so going back to ideas and producing photos, you can have massive amounts of information, in digital or negatives. So they’re easier to store and easier to produce. It’s more in tune with the modern world.”
“If you also have a visual impairment, know that learning how to advocate for yourself is the most important key to achieving your goals. There will be more obstacles to figure out, but if you are persistent and unafraid of the label of being “visually impaired”, you can show others what you are capable of achieving.
To those who are not disabled, never assume what a disabled person’s limits are.
Also, the whole ‘you are an inspiration’ speech gets old after a while. We are normal people who happen to live our lives with some slight adaptation. Persons with disabilities are well capable of advocating for ourselves.
If you would like to be helpful, ask to offer assistance, don’t immediately take over what we are doing. And in my personal opinion, questions are how you learn! When the appropriate time comes to ask questions regarding accommodations and accessibility don’t hold back!”
“I was first introduced to the YouTube community through music. I followed pianists like Kyle Landry and Sherry Kim and they were my inspiration for playing.
It wasn’t until I started contemplating my sexual orientation that I discovered the vlogging community and coming out videos. I wanted that same sense of community and resource to those living with disabilities.
So I started talking about my experiences living with albinism and low vision.
I’m almost positive that when people hear the phrase ‘visual impairment’ they think of someone who cannot see completely.
A majority of the blind community are people with low vision. We can still see a little, or most of the detail of what we’re looking at, it just depends on environmental conditions. I am visually impaired, but I am also a painter, and I coach soccer.”
“I was born with albinism, which is what caused my visual impairment. I grew up having to learn how to navigate the world with low vision, while also being aware that my skin color was different from the rest of my biological family.
Growing up in an indigenous community was hard. Not only was my low vision a challenge, but it was also hard to accept my skin color. Being taught about the history of Indigenous communities with white Europeans, made me struggle with accepting the color of my own skin.”
“I’m really lucky and happy to be able to meet the people within the hearing loss community. They are all from different kinds of backgrounds and varying degrees of hearing loss, some people have come to terms with their hearing loss. Some people haven’t. Some people try to hide it. Some people are very expressive with it.”
“I was born and raised in a more oral method of instruction for the deaf where they teach you to speak and understand lip-reading. My father didn’t actually permit me to sign. And that was the 1970s or so. My mom did sign a little bit, mainly just home signs (invented gestures), but my father required me to speak when he was around.”
What is the best thing about being deaf?
“I hear screaming/crying babies less. Unfortunately, sometimes, I can still hear them depending on how close they are, but for the most part, the sound is less for me than it would be a hearing person. Sorry, babies. I understand why you cry, but it hurts.”
“My parents are both deaf, and ASL was my first language. English is actually a second language for me.
In our family we had a footstool that would sit by the TV, and that was the interpreter’s footstool because we didn’t have closed captioning back then. Growing up there was the Vietnam War, and that [was] the first war that was really televised. So I would sit on the footstool next to the TV and interpret the news and update Mom and Dad.”
Inspired by the popular photo-interview project Humans of New York, we launched FBTS at the beginning of 2017 to spread awareness about web accessibility. Through photos and interviews, we have been able to share many unique stories that give everyday people a face, a voice, and an opportunity to share their story and perspective.
Our aim is to simply connect the world with these stories, offer a new perspective, hopefully shatter common stigmas and preconceived notions, and remind everyone that the world wide web, including websites, apps, and other digital interfaces, needs to be accessible for everyone – including people with disabilities. Follow us on social @facesbehindthescreen!