Because Deaf doesn't mean Boring. October 15, 2009 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Not a call out about this post about the hearing impaired and entertainment.

This is not a call out. The poster asked a fair question in a fair way, and has been met (so far) with compassionate responses. (minus a zinger from musofire that I want to read as sarcasm).

No really. I wanted to point out that I'm glad that AskMe was able to take a Really-Not-PC question and give it a thoughtful series of answers that will, I hope, improve the OP's and thread-readers viewpoint on entertainment for people with disabilities.

Some especially great answers from ClaudiaCenter, applemeat, desjardins, roger ackroyd, Sova, and alms.

Good work MeFi.
posted by TomMelee to Etiquette/Policy at 12:55 PM (34 comments total)

Not PC? Huh? I thought it was a good question. Nothing wrong with getting real answers instead of making assumptions or wondering for the rest of your life. How is that even offensive in the very least, as I assume you're seeing it that way since you're bringing it up.
posted by heyho at 1:02 PM on October 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


There's nothing not-PC about that question. It's a really good question, actually.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:05 PM on October 15, 2009


I think AskMe can be really good for this sort of thing if the questions are phrased well and people don't jump in immediately with some sort of "you're a bad person for wondering/asking this" Many people come from places where they just don't know people who are different and/or feel that asking the one person they do know who is different may be met with a "Hey don't make me your token Deaf friend and/or representative of all Deaf people." response. Getting to ask a larger collection of people who may have good first- or even second-hand knowledge about these questions is a good way to go. I know we have a few Deaf or hearing impaired folks on the site and was hoping one of them might see that, but in any case, the thread has been interesting to watch.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:07 PM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Heh. I just dropped a huge comment about ASL syntax in there. If there are any ASL speakers who can make my example about translating from Madama Butterfly more concrete, please do.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:10 PM on October 15, 2009


In terms of well-answered possibly-touchy questions, my recent favorite is What's That Smell That All These Latinos Have?
posted by Greg Nog at 1:13 PM on October 15, 2009


I think lots of people would agree that if the question was asked differently---same question, but different prose, it wouldn't end well.

My point, heyho, is that it was asked well and the people who are choosing to answer it (at least the people we're seeing with posts remaining) are answering it well.

Why do people who don't hear go to the opera? Why do people who can't see go to the movies? What does "deaf" mean? Do you have to be totally deaf to need ASL? Why do people who are in wheelchairs play sports?

They're not bad or even unfair questions, they just get shouted down a lot. They are questions that, I think, show that someone wants to understand something but can't seem to wrap their minds around the complexities and/or the real differences...if there are differences, between themselves and the perceived group.
posted by TomMelee at 1:15 PM on October 15, 2009


Before reading the answers there, I didn't really understand the distinction between sign language and English-made-with-hand-signs -- that the sign means the thing/action/concept, not a stand-in for the word, so for a deaf person fluent in sign language, reading the English words is an extra layer of translation. Was that the not-PC part?
posted by palliser at 1:16 PM on October 15, 2009


And that it has its own syntax. Thanks, ocherdraco!
posted by palliser at 1:21 PM on October 15, 2009


Well, maybe PC isn't the word. I wasn't intending to post here and keep coming back in, I just wanted to say good work.

As someone who spends my days doing nothing but working with and for folks with disabilities, I experience a lot of people who separate the disabled from themselves by some kind of nutty perceived barrier that doesn't exist, whether it's the individuals ability to experience the rest of his/her senses, their outlook on the world, their ability or inability to do things for themselves, etc.

So, in this question, or rather in this kind of question, I see it dissolving into "well they can't hear so what else is there to do there?" and completely missing the point about the story, or the literature, or the experience of being out, of being with friends, whatever. The non-disabled don't exist in a vacuum, and neither do the disabled. It can sometimes be "you don't get out of it what you're *supposed* to get out of it", and telling someone what they are or aren't supposed to experience is ugly.

The point is that we all adapt, the disabled and the fully-abled, we adapt to get what we want out of the world. Looking at life through the reverse end of the telescope sometimes gives us a viewpoint we never knew existed, and that's why I applaud the OP and the answer-ers.
posted by TomMelee at 1:25 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


That makes more sense. To me it seemed like the most PC question ever. I see your point now, TomMelee. My only "Huh?" moment was the not-PC bit. Thanks for the explanation.
posted by heyho at 1:27 PM on October 15, 2009


To me it seemed that the OP's question was really: why the sign language interpreter if subtitles are available? and not what musofire's first response was. It was handled well. I guess it's nice to see good threads called out on metatalk, but it is not nearly as fun - what am I to do with all of this rage?
posted by Think_Long at 1:31 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


For a completely awesome and fun way to get your head around this -- not that ocherdraco hasn't done a great job -- you can look at some YouTube videos [I did a post about this a long time ago] like this Jonathan Coulton song. You can watch the signers and in the more info section on the side you can see the rough literal translation for what they're signing which are not the words JC is singing. The lyrics are a little nsfw but oh man do I love this song and the ASL version so much.

There are, not surprisingly, a lot of Deaf people on YouTube commenting and sometimes you'll see really interesting back-and-forth discussion/arguments in the comments about how people chose to represent certain lyrics with their sign choices. Comedian Keith Wann who is a CODA [Child of Deaf Adults] does a really funny send-up of the problems for interpreting popular music. A lot of the videos on his channel are really funny.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:33 PM on October 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


So, in this question, or rather in this kind of question, I see it dissolving into "well they can't hear so what else is there to do there?" and completely missing the point about the story, or the literature, or the experience of being out, of being with friends, whatever.

I think the point of the question was "why do they need BSL when there are supertitles?". Everyone recognized that any deaf people in the audience would be interested in the story; the questioner was just wondering why they couldn't read the libretto like everyone else in the audience.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:35 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh and this video has captions in English and rough ASL glosses at the same time which can be really helpful for getting what ASL is versus English and/or Signed English.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:36 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Those video links are awesome! That dude is an excellent singer (and I don't mean Jonathan Coulton).
posted by ocherdraco at 1:43 PM on October 15, 2009


Yo TomMelee, I'm really happy for you, Imma Let you finish, but this touchy non-PC question has some of the best answers of all time! OF ALL TIME!

Sorry, I had to do that at least once before the meme was totally removed from our collective memory. Plus, I really did appreciate people's answers there. I was afraid of getting jumped on, but people were very generous in sharing their perspectives.
posted by desjardins at 1:51 PM on October 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is this where I point out that Michael DiMartino's sign language videos are totally, totally amazing and I can't stop watching them?

Also: I wish I knew ASL. It's really beautiful to watch. I had a deaf preschool teacher and I can do some "baby sign," but unless a conversation involved "I want more milk. Thank you. Change my diaper." I'd be totally lost. Also, I don't think I want to have that conversation with anyone over the age of 3.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:03 PM on October 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


That would make for a bizarre opera, grapefruitmoon.
posted by heyho at 3:16 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


That would make for a bizarre opera, grapefruitmoon.

I'm at home sick with the worst fever I've had in years and you have just made my day imagining what that opera would look like. Thank you.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:18 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sick too (just congested now; fever broke).
Suddenly this is starting to make sense. *screams* Change my diaper!!
posted by heyho at 3:27 PM on October 15, 2009


To me it seemed that the OP's question was really: why the sign language interpreter if subtitles are available? and not what musofire's first response was.

I just want to say, other than potentially hijacking a thread, I didn't see anything wrong with musofire's comment either. It seems fair. This said, if I ever go to an opera it will be because I was to see it, not because I want to hear it.

I suffer from tinnitus and most concerts are painful if I forget earplugs, and I haven't heard any opera music I like (so far). So a subtitled, silent opera sounds great to me.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:38 PM on October 15, 2009


I love watching ASL songs too. This guy's my old favorite. What a fun sort of performance!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:44 PM on October 15, 2009


Another touchy question, which I think was handled really well - Why are gay people so flamboyant?
posted by crossoverman at 6:37 PM on October 15, 2009


Not all "hearing impaired" people use sign language. You can have moderate to severe hearing loss compensated for with hearing aids, be educated in mainstream schools, and work in the hearing world without using sign language or interpreters. This is the case with me.

I don't want to start a flamewar, so I won't say here what I think about the Deaf culture dominating the representation of people with auditory disabilities, or how I feel every time I meet a shopclerk or stranger who expects me to sign. I have no objection to fully deaf people using sign language, but I don't like being lumped in with them.

Meanwhile, because I have had my hearing impairment since birth and have a residual speech impediment, I'm also used to being treated like a recent immigrant from a nation that nobody has ever heard of. I also don't do too hot at rock concerts, clubs, and noisy restaurants.
posted by bad grammar at 6:48 PM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


grapefruitmoon: "Is this where I point out that Michael DiMartino's sign language videos are totally, totally amazing and I can't stop watching them?

Also: I wish I knew ASL. It's really beautiful to watch. I had a deaf preschool teacher and I can do some "baby sign," but unless a conversation involved "I want more milk. Thank you. Change my diaper." I'd be totally lost. Also, I don't think I want to have that conversation with anyone over the age of 3.
"

"Baby sign"? I wish I could have signed that exact phrase on many a Saturday night at the fraternity house when all I could do was sit and smile.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:57 PM on October 15, 2009


Good now I can say that if a guy was sitting behind me in a movie theater and he was describing everything that was happening on the screen and I turned around and I realized that he was describing it to a blind person I'd still be really annoyed.

(something here about Carver's Cathedral)
posted by ludwig_van at 7:40 PM on October 15, 2009


Baby Sign is usually aimed at a slightly younger crowd than frat boys...
posted by Karmakaze at 7:46 PM on October 15, 2009


Ludwig_Van, we have audio description via wireless headset for that purpose.
posted by joeclark at 8:15 PM on October 15, 2009


Yeah, JohnnyGunn, baby sign is an actual basic form of sign language used with, well, babies, and children with speech development problems. I've learned baby sign over the past two years working with speech delayed children - which explains why one of the signs I know is "change my diaper."

(My full vocabulary: milk, food, more, please, thank you, all done, play, change my diaper. This doesn't sound like much, but believe me, when you're working with a 2 year old who can't speak any actual intelligible words, but can sign these? AMAZINGLY HELPFUL.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:39 AM on October 16, 2009


Actually grapefruitmoon, baby sign isn't specific to babies with developmental and speech disorders. Lots of people swear by baby sign as a way to communicate effectively with wee ones well before they can otherwise speak clearly.

For example, my good friends 8 month old was able to clearly communicate diaper, milk, mommy, daddy, and several other concepts. But yea, baby sign is pretty cool!
posted by TomMelee at 4:46 AM on October 16, 2009


Oh, I meant with babies (full stop) and older children with developmental issues. Of course a baby who learns baby sign will still know it as an older child, but if "baby sign" is begun with an older child, it's usually because there's a speech delay. I'm trying to teach baby sign to an 20 mo. old who doesn't have words yet and it's slow going both on the speech and sign fronts. But hey, anything we can do to help him communicate is a bonus.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:17 AM on October 16, 2009


bad grammar - everything you wrote is precisely my experience. I had years of speech therapy, yet I absolutely abhor talking to strangers on the phone because I can be hard to understand and I hate repeating myself a dozen times. The Internet has been an absolute lifesaver.
posted by desjardins at 6:55 AM on October 16, 2009


“Baby sign” is not a “language.”
posted by joeclark at 12:49 PM on October 20, 2009


“Baby sign” is not a “language.”

I don't believe anyone said it is. If you inferred that because I said I can "speak" "baby sign," what I meant is "I can recognize and make the basic signs that are used in teaching children how to communicate basic ideas, but I do not have a more sophisticated knowledge of ASL."

Y'know, I'm finding that no matter what I say on MetaFilter, I have to go back in and explain it and it's really, really, REALLY exhausting. I don't know if I'm bad at communicating, or if everyone else is bad at understanding. Or both. I'm going to go with both.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:16 PM on October 20, 2009


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