Chapter 8: COVID and learning

8.6.1 Communicating within the Deaf community (synthesis)

Sarah Ciha

English 102, March 2020
Communication in the Deaf community varies from communication in the hearing community. The hearing community has a combination of visual and verbal communication. For the Deaf community, they must count on facial expressions to understand the severity of the words. Since communication is such a big part of day-to-day living, it’s crucial to know how to communicate with everyone. While reading three scholarly articles about communication and literacy practices within the Deaf community, all three articles related to James Gee’s “What is Literacy.” In Gee’s article, he discussed a myriad of literacy practices including primary and secondary discourse and acquisition. While majority of people learn how to talk through acquisition, this is slightly different for those in the Deaf community. Throughout this essay, those three scholarly articles are going to be compared and related to Gee’s “What is Literacy” to help understand the relation between primary and secondary discourses, and the difference between learning and acquisition in the Deaf community.  

In the article, “Parental strategies used in communication with their Deaf infants”, the authors Willie Beatrijs, Van Lierde Kristiane, and Van Herreweghe Mieke, begin to describe what will happen during the article. First they start off by describing their recorded interactions between parents and Deaf children. All children which were used throughout the study were under the age of three. They also included Deaf and hearing parents to see the difference between the interaction and communication taking place. Moving forward, the authors introduce the background information. It was found that most children do not get screened for any hearing deficiencies and most children who are Deaf, grow up in a home where both parents are hearing (166).  However, in Flanders, where this observation took place, an agency began to systematically screen all newborns for hearing loss. This occurred in 1998 and has since gotten the ball rolling on parents to start getting audio tests while their children are young. It has been shown that the younger the hearing loss is detected, the chances of having a positive outcome increase (Beatrijs, et al.166).  After parents or caregivers find out if their child has hearing loss, they tend to investigate cochlear implants and get the procedure for their child. Authors then discuss how a child’s successful communication is often related to their development of visual attention. The results from the study find that Deaf parents engage with their children with visuals. Deaf parents tend to rely on a combination of “implicit” and “tactile” strategies more than oral strategies. While incorporating implicit and tactile strategies this helps the parents become a Deaf role model for their Deaf children (176). 

The study above is comparing different types of communication between parents, hearing and hearing impaired, and their Deaf children. While these strategies are learned for most parents, some are also learned through acquisition. Following Gee’s definition of both learning and acquisition, it’s clear that the strategies can all be considered as something you learn. However, for Deaf parents with Deaf children, these strategies come more naturally to them which means their learned through acquisition. For example, tactile and implicit strategies applied by Deaf or hard-of-hearing parents are both things they already had learned but applying it to children can be considered acquisition. 

In the second article, “A Summary of the Communication and Literacy Evidence-Based Practices for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Visually Impaired, and Deafblind,” the main purpose of this article was to summarize and compare all of the findings on the topic of communication in the Deaf community. They begin to discuss communication and literacy practices with people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. The authors, John Luckner, Susan Bruce, and Kay Ferrel, mention three general ways to promote communication which include oral, manual, and simultaneous methods. These three ways help those who have hearing loss stay connected with friends and family. Literacy in the Deaf community is completely different than the hearing community. Authors Lederberg, Schick, and Spencer wrote about this topic in 2013 and said that two skills that are “relevant” to Deaf or hard of hearing students are “language abilities and the ability to use spoken phonological knowledge” (229). They also go in depth for visual impairments and Deaf-blindness. Both of those topics are similar to the hard of hearing section. In their conclusion, the authors describe the difficulties with creating the best educational environment for any student who has disabilities (234-235). 

Relating this to Gee’s “What is Literacy?,” he talks about the difference between acquisition and learning. These two relate to the article because with hearing or visually impaired, learning and acquisition are important. According to Gee, “Acquisition is a process of acquiring something subconsciously by exposure to models and a process of trial and error, without a process of formal teaching” (20). Gee’s definition of learning is as follows, “Learning is a process that involves conscious knowledge gained through teaching, though not necessarily from someone officially designated a teacher” (20). For people who are hearing impaired, they typically learn American Sign Language to communicate with others. Learning ASL would be considered “learning” following Gee’s definition. Reading lips, however, would be considered “acquisition” following Gee’s definition. Gee also says that most people tend to learn from acquisition and not from actually learning.  

Finally, in the third article, “Hearing Managers of Deaf Workers: A Phenomenological Investigation in the Restaurant Industry,” the main idea is hearing impaired people in the workplace. Authors Hayley Stokar and John Orwat begin their article with a brief overview of Deaf people struggling to fit in the workplace. Up front they bring in statistics backing up their topic saying that limits within the workplace reflect on Deaf employment rates. People who are hearing have an employment rate that is 26.5% larger than those who are apart of the Deaf community (14). This comparison alone shows people with hearing loss struggle to get a job due to them being Deaf. And while the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act are there to prevent any discrimination against the Deaf, it doesn’t guarantee them a job where they feel accepted. Stokar and Orwat conducted a study that had research questions that looked into the issues of “accommodation and integration” within the workplace (15). They had four research questions to better understand the accommodations that were being made for Deaf employees. The study included two subgroups, hearing managers and Deaf employees. After asking the four questions, they proceeded to have interviews with six hearing managers and six Deaf employees. Looking at the analysis of the entire study, most managers had a lack of knowledge of the ADA accommodations.  

In relation to Gee, the hearing managers helping to accommodate and make their Deaf employees welcome was “learned” through acquisition. The managers went through trial and error to understand everything the Deaf employees needed. For example, most of the managers had no idea that there has to be an interpreter at any staff meetings. Of course, the manager had no idea because it’s not every day where you hire and have a Deaf employee, but there are things they need legally. All of the managers that participated in the study said that they were more than happy to help and provide any resources their employees needed, hearing or Deaf (21). 

All of the articles used throughout this paper relate to each other not only because they all discuss communication and literacy practices in the Deaf community but because they describe hardships the Deaf community goes through. The articles all relate to different stages of life that a Deaf or hard-of-hearing person encounter. In “Hearing Managers of Deaf Workers: A Phenomenological Investigation in the Restaurant Industry,” the authors are discussing how hearing managers aren’t familiar with the needs of a Deaf worker. While the Deaf community is becoming more accepted into society, they still face hardships.  

To conclude, communication within the Deaf community is significantly more difficult than communication in the hearing community. Communicating in a society with predominately hearing people is often difficult for hearing impaired persons. Deaf and hard-of-hearing people depend on facial expressions and body language to help them convey and understand a conversation. While society has been more accepting of people with disabilities, people still don’t know how to accommodate the Deaf. Accommodating the Deaf is something that is very hard for society to do as a whole. But that being said, if we all come together this would be very beneficial for the Deaf community. Throughout the three scholarly articles that were discussed in this paper, it’s clear that people are still learning how to communicate with Deaf people. All of the articles could all be related back to James Gee’s “What is Literacy.” The Deaf community has evolved overtime and with the help of society and people apart of the hearing world, the Deaf community can feel more welcomed into our society.  

Works Cited 

Beatrijs, Wille, et al. “Parental Strategies Used in Communication with Their Deaf Infants.”  

Child Language Teaching & Therapy, vol. 35, no. 2, June 2019, pp. 165–183. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/0265659019852664. 

Gee, James Paul. “What is literacy.” Negotiating academic literacies: Teaching and learning 

across languages and cultures (1998): 51-59. 

Luckner, John L., et al. “A Summary of the Communication and Literacy Evidenc Based  

Practices for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Visually Impaired, and Deafblind.” Communication Disorders Quarterly, vol. 37, no. 4, Aug. 2016, pp. 225–241. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/1525740115597507. 

Stokar, Hayley, and John Orwat. “Hearing Managers of Deaf Workers: A  

Phenomenological Investigation in the Restaurant Industry.” American Annals of the Deaf, vol. 163, no. 1, Spring 2018, pp. 13–34. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1353/aad.2018.0009. 

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