Faces Behind the Screen: Mohammed

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Faces Behind the Screen: Mohammed

Mohammed is a Business Management student at Northeastern University. On his way to class, he would always walk by the same American Sign Language (ASL) course and became intrigued by the silence that filled the room. Eager to learn more, he decided to sign up for the ASL course himself. We met Mohammed at the George W. Veditz ASL Festival at Northeastern University, where he was hoping to speak with Deaf and hard of hearing individuals and utilize some of the signs he’s learned over the course of the semester. Although this was a great place to learn more and practice his signs, he told us, it was also quite overwhelming for him.

“Every time I see a movie without captions, I feel like they’re doing something wrong.”

How has it been learning ASL?

So far, it is so difficult to identify who’s Deaf and who’s not. And at the same time, I’m kind of panicking of if I started the conversation, or something, and then they would sign signs that I haven’t studied so far. I wouldn’t know how to answer that.

How do you think taking this class has helped your view of the deaf community?

I understand how they live. And at first, — I’m sorry to say that, but I always thought of them as disabled. But now, I know that their life is like ours, basically. They manage to live to the fullest. And I’ve seen videos of people – Deaf people – actually playing football. I began to think that they don’t have anything missing. They are enjoying life like we do.

Has being in this class made you interested in captioning at all?

Every time I see a movie without captions, I feel like they’re doing something wrong. There are a lot of people who want to watch the same movie, but there are no captions for it. Even the teacher would tell us sometimes that this is a difficult part for them. Not everyone cares about the deaf people. So, yes, I would think that it’s a very important thing, especially for the young ones. But now, I feel like there’s a lot of– most people have begun to care about this kind of stuff, so it’s better than before.

What advice would you give to someone who was in your position before who wasn’t sure about the deaf community and had preconceptions?

I would definitely tell them to take at least an American Sign Language class to better understand about how they live and everything. Especially with a teacher who is actually Deaf. That’s a big difference. You can’t talk to the teacher even if you want to. That’s the best feeling that would make you learn much more.

Now that you’ve taken this class, do you think you’ve become more of an advocate?

Yes, of course. I’m telling my friends and cousins– everyone. Everyone at first was telling me why do you take it, or you won’t use it– you will forget everything. But I think that more than the sign language itself, we understand the deaf people in general and that’s the most beneficial thing from this class.

“But I think that more than the sign language itself, we understand the Deaf people in general. That’s the most beneficial thing from this class.”

Do you plan on using sign language for your business in the future?

I was thinking about that. Before I took this class, I thought that there’s a universal sign language. Well, I discovered that there is a lot of different sign languages– for every region, they have their own. I asked the teacher, “why isn’t there a universal sign language?” It would make it much easier. But he said, it’s very different. You know, the verbs, the nouns, and the letters, it’s not the same with everything, so it made sense that it would be different. It has to be different. So now I figured that even if I went back to my home country, which is Saudi Arabia, I wouldn’t be able to use American Sign Language as much, but at least I learned something.

Maybe if more of us can simply choose to feed our curiosities like Mohammed did with sign language, we can continue to smash preconceived notions we have about other people in our world – one semester at a time.

We want to extend a huge thank you to the American Sign Language Program at Northeastern University for hosting the George W. Veditz ASL Festival.

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Pictures of four people who were interviewed for the Faces Behind the Screen project

Faces Behind the Screen is a storytelling project focusing on members of the Deaf and hard of hearing community.