What is WhyISign and where did your inspiration come from to start the movement?
The movement was started to support hearing families with deaf children. Often, families feel alone. They often wonder whether they are the only ones signing and whether there are other families who are also signing. Families wonder where Deaf communities are. They are often curious about deaf adults’ experiences, whether they grew up with signing or started signing later. They also wonder whether the outside communities are also supportive of signing. I would then reassure them, but how do I connect families to each other and the communities? So I decided to try to use technology and to use a hashtag. The goal was for families to see different stories and experiences being shared. That also includes the Deaf communities sharing their experiences and maybe some advice and tips. Hearing families can observe, learn, and come to the realization that their deaf child will grow up to be just fine. Support and resources from all over are also shared. The ultimate goal is for deaf children from all over to grow up and become successful in different ways.
This is who I am. I would not be here if the deaf community in Arkansas did not support my family. They supported my hearing family in seeking resources, becoming a part of the community, and told my parents that they can do it in raising me well. I am me because I am deaf. I am proud of our heritage, our culture, and an ASL user. I feel like I can relate- I have two hearing parents who were frustrated with the system, but fortunately, they were able to access the deaf community and found resources. I always say that I am here today for two reasons: My family learned to sign with me & the deaf community supported my family in getting resources & support
Truthfully, everyone should know how to sign. Being able to sign your thoughts, your feelings, and to express the concepts in ASL makes so much more sense than putting them into words. ASL is three-dimensional and can portray thoughts accurately. It is the natural right of every deaf and hard of hearing child, to learn to sign as well. How much do they need to use it, or to incorporate that with another language is up to the deaf and hard of hearing individual, but I truly believe that every deaf and hard of hearing child should have sign language (any native sign language) as a first language to build upon another language.
In what ways can hearing people be allies to the Deaf community?
Be open to learning signs, be respectful of our culture. Check-in with us, involve us, and allow us to lead. We welcome the hearing community to be allies, but allow us to make decisions, and support us. Believe in us, and always believe that deaf are heirs to a beautiful language and culture that is unique to the deaf community. Believe that deaf people can be multi-lingual members of multi-cultures and communities. Stop thinking that deaf and hard of hearing children are a burden to society. They are a BURDEN only if the society does not support their families, and give them ALL they can get, including sign language and the deaf community. We all are in this together to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing children become successful. I mean all kinds of deaf and hard of hearing children (deafblind, deaf disabled, and late-deafened as well)
If we can change one perception of what a deaf and hard of hearing person can do, then that could become a ripple effect. Be open to learning about sign language and our culture. Do not be afraid to open your mind and heart. Every bit counts. Every change counts. If we can stop language deprivation in deaf and hard of hearing children, and focus on the "how" they can be successful, and if we can do that during deaf awareness month, then that is a start. But that does not mean it stops on October 1st.
Please share your #whyisign stories, and spread the word that the deaf community is HERE, and we are always open to working with hearing families in learning about sign language, and deaf culture. We ultimately have the same goal- to see all deaf/hard of hearing children happy and able to navigate in both worlds. That can ONLY happen if they have accessible language.