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Busted: Myths About Deafness

We’re here to bust the top 5 myths that people believe about deafness and Deaf people. Read on!

1. “All Deaf people can read lips, and as long as I speak distinctly and look at them, they will always understand every word I have to say.”

It’s estimated that speechreading is only something that can be understand with 30% accuracy. In situations where the deaf person is familiar with the speaker or the conversation is easily predictable (such as at a check out stand) comprehension goes up to 60%, but that’s still almost every other word missing from the exchange.

2. “All Deaf people were taught to speak in school using an easy process where each letter has a mouth shape they learn, and then they’re good to go.”

Though some Deaf people were taught to speak in oral schools with intense one-on-one speech therapy, many deaf people do not speak.

3. “Deafness is genetic. All people who are deaf will pass deafness onto their children.”

There is a type of deafness that is genetic, and some deaf people do have deaf children, however 95% of all deaf people are born to hearing parents and will also have hearing children.

4. “Sign language is bad for deaf people because they will rely on it too much and it will make them unable to communicate with hearing people.”

Research shows that teaching deaf children sign language early in development supports normal language, social-emotional and cognitive development.

5. “Sign Language is universal. People from overseas and people from America get together and can instantly understand each other.”

In fact, there are at least 150 distinct sign languages (Ethnologue). American Sign Language (ASL) is used in the United States and parts of Canada, and is historically related to French Sign Language (much like French and Italian are related). British Sign Language (BSL) is completely different from ASL, and BSL signers and ASL signers are as incomprehensible to one another as German speakers and Italian speakers.

New sign languages are still emerging today within Deaf communities, for example, in Nicaragua.

Excerpted and adapted from “If My Hands Could Speak.”

What if the ADA Were Passed in Nicaragua?

The logo of the Americans with Disabilities Act 25th anniversary celebration (1990-2015)2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law that prohibits the discrimination of people with different physical and mental abilities. For Deaf individuals, the ADA has improved access to employment, made closed captioning more prevalent, and helped Deaf children in public schools get the interpreters they needed to receive a quality education.

Although improvements still need to be made in the U.S. to better educational access for deaf children, conditions in Nicaragua are far more severe. A Deaf child growing up in the low-income countryside likely has no access to educational resources they can benefit from, and can usually only communicate through homesign and gestures.

Although Nicaraguan law technically promises an education for all children with differing abilities, there are very few monetary resources to back it, and few ways to hold the government accountable for inadequate programs.

Please help us connect these kids with the sign language and educational programs they need to be able to communicate, learn and work alongside their families and peers! Join our Gold Circle Membership by setting up a recurring $9 monthly tax-deductible donation to our program! Give today.

Research Update – Fall 2015

Earlier this year, our executive director, Dr. Marie Coppola, made her annual trip to Nicaragua to continue her research of the linguistics and development of Deaf Nicaraguan children. This time the goal was to help launch the research study of her student, Deanna Gagne.

Deanna, along with her research assistant (and husband!) Kurt Gagne and Nicaraguan research assistant Hayseli Midence are studying the linguistic development in hearing children whose parents were part of the first cohort of Nicaraguan children that came to Managua’s first deaf school in the 1970s and created Nicaraguan sign language. This population has not yet been studied!

Deanna, Kurt and Hayseli will be looking for patterns in how these children communicate having been influenced mainly by their parents’ signing skills instead of a peer group of fellow signers. They will compare these communication patterns to those of the second cohort of Nicaraguan children at Managua’s deaf school, who were influenced not only by the first cohort above them, but each other.

Marie says the trip was successful, and one of the highlights was being in the country at the same time as a plethora of other researchers who are studying Nicaragua’s Deaf population. In fact, the group even came together one day at Café de las Sonrisas in Granada, known for its all-Deaf staff.

“There’s not that many places that have any number of Deaf employees, much less all deaf employees,” said Marie.

“I felt that the trip to the Café de las Sonrisas was really amazing: to be able to go there with such a large group that included hearing and deaf researchers, and being able to interact with the Deaf people that work there,” she added.

Marie will likely be returning to Nicaragua in the summer of 2016 to continue her research.

A Tour of Hogar Escuela with Massiel

For the past two years, Manos Unidas has sponsored 13- year-old Massiel as she attends classes for the first time to learn sign language at Hogar Escuela, a primary school for deaf children.

Previously, Massiel was attending school in a rural area with no one who could teach her a first language or communicate lessons. Now she is thriving!

Take a look at Massiel’s typical school day.