How Are You Remembering the Deaf?October 17, 2014

Everyone knew the story of Helen Keller, who was deafblind. It was a difficult childhood, where she always felt isolated. But Anne Sullivan, her teacher, figured out she was like the rest. A different method was the only thing needed. Miss Sulivan must break the barrier, due to lack of communication between teacher and student, in able to let Helen know that everything would be fine. Keller recalled the struggles in her autobiography, "The Story of My Life" (1903). The plan succeeded, but it was something else for the young girl. It turned out she was gifted. She was the first deafblind to earn a bachelor's degree. She became a lecturer and political activist.

Deaf Australia may have Helen Keller in mind while preparing for National Week for Deaf People. It happens on October 18-24. (The International Day of Deaf People is held on September, but it don't fit in Australia's calendar of events.) The aim of this campaign is to recognise deaf students, even deaf teachers. In this politically-correct time, we must treat them with kid glove. There's no need. This physical impairment doesn't deter these people from achieving their goals. It's up to us to look at deafness positively, guiding - and helping - them to achieve their dreams.

Indeed, they're an inspiration. There's a list of authors who are deaf. Julia Brace, Connie Briscoe, Henry Lawson, Raymond Luczak, Stevie Platt. If you're not convinced, then look up on Thomas Edison. Setback can be another challenge, and these individuals manage to get over it. We can learn something from them by remembering the following:

Learn to use sign language. If there's a deaf student whom you know, then it is better to study how they communicate. Don't be disheartened, as most things are not easy to learn at first. It takes patience, and the reward will surprise you. As many will attest, this kind of people are more intuitive. They're appreciative too.

Don't leave them out. Being different doesn't mean deaf students must be excluded from certain activities. Don't make them feel that way. (Who doesn't want to be normal?) Be there to assist them in case they need it. (Watching a movie, for instance.)

Pulling a leg may not be a good idea. Nothing wrong about making light of the situation, but let's not do it at their expense. Unless you're acquainted with that student. Unless you sense that person don't take jokes seriously. Unless you know self-depreciation. There are instances when something may be stepped on, which offends someone. Be quick to apologise.

Always be there for them. To depend on anyone may be childish, but it's important to know that there's someone we can count on. The likes of Keller don't come often. Be perceptive. Be accommodating as well.

Be part of the event. You know why there's a need to highlight this occasion. It's a reminder that we must do all of these all year round, but this time of the year is rather different.

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