I had the recent honour to spend a day at Washington School of the Deaf (Washington State USA). I don’t need to explicitly state the problems the children there have to deal with in their daily life – some have physical disabilities too and the life that the world has constructed for them isn’t constructed for people with some kind of disability. There is very little thought for people without the things we all take for granted.
The school is a gift – I was moved by the love and patience the teachers have for the children – but I felt sad to know that the world doesn’t generally have that kind of patience. Life is not easy for most of us but for these children it is and will be even harder work because life is not designed for people who are deaf (or for anyone with a disability – blindness, cerebral palsy, autism, etc.).
But what these children reinforce is the need for communication and allowing time to do it. When they communicate to you, you have to listen and watch – and take the time to do this. When you communicate to them, they listen and watch you. And when you’re not able to understand everything they say (I am not a signer so I listen to the sounds and watch their faces) you do understand the ‘sense’ of what they say.
And that is what is so often missing in everyday life – we’re more concerned about what we say, not how we say it. The intention behind what we say is just as key since this is who we are. I think more of us would find life a lot more bearable if we said things with the intelligence of a deaf person – words with substance and emotion. I am truly grateful to WSD and its dedicated staff for exposing me to their special pupils who hear and see far more than we give them credit for. The world could learn from all that they are.