Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Deaf Community at Walmart

I know there is a reasonably well sized Deaf Community in the area I live. I haven't had much contact with them except for at Walmart. When Noah was little and had hearing aids people who were Deaf would regularly stop us in Walmart and fuss over Noah. They loved to sign at him. It was like the world was a better place because there was another deaf baby in it. They would ask me all about him (in ASL) and I would attempt to haltingly reply (ok, mostly fingerspelling, but we were able to communicate a bit). It always made me feel really good. It was ok that Noah was deaf. There are other people who are deaf that like Noah just the way he is. Yesterday I was at Walmart shopping with Noah and two women in the checkout line next to us were signing. Noah was quite interested in watching them - he loves to sign! I really think he would be quite fluent if it weren't for his vision problems and his language deficient mother. He's no longer the cute baby with the hearing aids, though, he's a toddler with a CI. All was good at first. They smiled and waved at Noah and he smiled right back and signed "bed" at them (it was naptime). But then he turned his head and they saw it - Noah has a cochlear implant. Suddenly the signing got really fast and the facial expressions got angry. The one woman pointed at Noah and signed cochlear implant and then a lot of stuff that was too quick for me to catch (assuming I knew the words anyway, which is unlikely). She texted someone on her phone and then a man came over and she signed CI again and pointed at Noah and he signed a bunch of stuff really fast. These people went from smiling and waving at my adorable little boy to angrily turning their backs whenever he would look at them. He's two, people! He doesn't understand that his mother made a controversial choice so that he could listen and speak. He doesn't know why you suddenly don't want to be friendly anymore. And you know what? You don't know that he couldn't sign a single word until he was able to speak with the CI. You don't know that he works really hard to learn ASL but that speech comes to him easily. I made the right decision, and I stand by it. I would be happy to explain my reasons if someone would ask me. Shunning a toddler is juvenile and cruel. If that's what the deaf community wants to teach my son I hope he stays far away from it. Where are all the kind deaf people? Maybe I should shop at Target instead.


Jennifer said...

I knew, from a friend that was deaf, that the 'deaf community' was very close knit and opinionated but the encounters you have had with Noah are horrible!

I would hate to be in the position you were in at WalMart but I think I would have definitely said something to them. You don't need to justify your decision to ANYONE and its horrible that people would ostracize you for it.

Seriously... thats so rude of them.

I remember a quote that I could modify for situations such as this: "Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them"

And yes, you should shop at Target, for the fact that WalMart has done more than its fair share to put thousands of hard working Americans out of work through their corporate expansion policies or the fact that they cost American tax payers millions by under paying their employees and encouraging them to apply for welfare because of it.

Oh ya, and we need some new pictures of your cutie!

Jennifer said...

I'm so sorry that happened...that was just rude :( I personally feel like you DID make the right choice...he can always choose to be deaf later, if he so desires, but if you don't give him the opportunity to learn to speak and hear now, he might never catch up if he wanted it as an adult. As the mama, I know it's so painful to see your child snubbed or hurt, and I'm sorry that you had to deal with's not fair ((HUGS))

tiffany said...

That is terrible when I know you've put every ounce of love into deciding what is right for Noah. How dare they judge you not having walked in your shoes? Argh. I wish I had an answer you could give them. You should write an article for magazing or community they read bringing some awareness maybe? You'd do an amazing job.

Nathali said...

Their opinion and reaction is just ridiculous!!! I wouldn't even worry about what they think. This is YOUR decision and you decided what's best for Noah and that is all that matters!!!!

abby said...

How narrowminded and rude of them and how very very sad. I cannot understand why it is and how it is that people who have not walked in shoes not their own can pass judgement so easily on others.

I second the shop at Target comment (the stuff is better designed anyway!)

Anonymous said...

I'm very sad to read about this experience. It's shameful behavior and I have a hard time imagining that there are many people in the Deaf community that would actually project their negativity to a toddler. Must be Walmart. Definitely shop at Target if you've got one!

Joey Baer said...

I feel for you but I must defend our Deaf people. Not all Deaf people are same and it is not fair for some of you to "stereotype" us.

It is frustrating when you continue to label/stereotype us all of times. If you continue to do this, Deaf people will not be able to show who they are really are. That is really unfortunate.

You also need to remember how OFTEN hearing people are so rude to Deaf people as well. Deaf people suffer as well.

Thank you.

mishkazena said...

I am sorry you and your son had to experience this.

I can assure you that not all Deaf people are like that. Please don't let few people color your perception of Deaf people.

Anonymous said...

I am embarrassed by my own people. It is true that there are Deaf people who are quite opinionated when it comes to implanting deaf children. I applaud you for incorporating sign language as you want the best of both worlds for your son.

All my best!

kw said...

Gosh--It boggles my mind how some people can be so heartless. It's wonderful you explored the choices and made the right decision for YOUR child. As Noah grows, he will decide where he feels most comfortable. It might not be with Deaf people, despite the fact he IS deaf. Their loss.

An Ebarrassed Deaf Person. said...

Welcome to the blunt part of the Deaf culture! I am sorry that you have to experience it in a bad way. Just hang on there and ignore them to a point.

As for me, I was born deaf but grew up in a hearing world with limit amount connection with the deaf culture. It was the bluntness that set me back when I first look into the deaf world as a grown adult. Yea, I thought they are rude, but they arent all like that. You just got to weed them out and find the good ones.


You said "not all Deaf people are same and it is not fair for some of you to "stereotype" us."

Well, you failed to understand that not all CI kid's parents are the same either and Deaf people are "stereotyping" the CI baby along with their parents! In other word, I am saying you are a hypocrite. Oh, dont forget that some of you deaf people "stereotype" the Alexander Graham Bell Association with a unnecessary protest you guys had earlier this year. That isnt all...what about that Gallaudet University's protest you guys had? Oh my! When your type of deaf people are going learn to stop getting into people faces all in the wrong way? All you are doing is casting a bigger and brighter light on the negatives part of the deaf culture.

Last of all, your argument don't hold water with that last paragraph that you wrote! Just because the Deaf was treated bad by SOME hearing people dont mean they have to treat all hearing people bad in return. Maybe some of us should start calling you and number of other the Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson of the Deaf. Oh, By the way, have a nice day.

Dianrez said...

I am embarrassed by those Deaf people; they have made the CI a political cause and a symbol of how some of the Deaf community was treated by hearing culture.

That isn't being fair to parents who make the decision on an individual basis and with their own baby's needs in mind. No one else.

Keep on signing and talking with your baby and let him sort out his own needs after he has received the best of all possible avenues. And do seek out the support of the larger Deaf community, especially those who have experienced the CI and who know what you have been going through.

Joey Baer said...

An embarrassed Deaf person,

I respect your perspective and that is a perfect example that Deaf people always get the blame regardless of what they try to do. Deaf people is always wrong. Always.

When we wanted a better leadership, better lives for Deaf children especially when ASL is being denied from them, Deaf people is always wrong. Always.

Emily and Noah - I need to emphasize again that many of us do not tolerate this kind of behavior from any human being. I certainly believe that Noah will benefit much more if he is being exposed to sign language.

Oh by the way, yes, it is a beautiful day and I am having a great day.

Patty said...

Hi, I just read your account and my heart sighed. So sorry that you had to encounter some Deaf people with extreme views. I can assure you with all my heart that we are not like them at all and we do not tolerate that kind of behavior at all.

I see that you live in VA, but if you're in Northern Virginia, then you're actually living in one of the largest Deaf/CI Communities in the US. Have you seen this website: ?? It's run by a fabulous Deaf/CI lady named Cheryl Heppner. I encourage you to sign up for their mailing list. Holiday parties are coming up soon; it would be nice for you to meet other parents of CI kids.

Before I go, I just want to mention this: that little boy of yours is ADORABLE! :-D

pilar said...

WHAT A NIGHTMARE! I sure wish you biggest hug and a kiss on Noah's head. He needs to be with your kind of people, just keep doing what you doing. THere's nothing wrong with the CI at all. The deaf community is a real problem. I am a CI user myself.. I don't really know anyone in the deaf community. In front of your sweet pea Noah, they really need to keep to themselves how terribly rude of them to react and pointed at him, he's 2 yrs old! That makes me really mad.. I felt horrible that they reacted to you and your wonderful son. Just hang in there. Remember you did the right thing with his CI be proud please and keep your chin up and shop somewhere else. Target!! Ya! Hope you have a nice week. Peace

Anonymous said...

As a culturally Deaf person who loves and cherishes ASL, I am so sorry you had to go through that!! I have my concerns about implants in general, but I agree that it's wrong to ostracize a child for that. I'm thrilled you're signing with your child. It sounds like you're a loving mom who wants to give her child everything. That's great. Please do keep in mind that most of us wouldn't react the way these people did.

moi, the blogger

The One and Only Ridor said...

LOL. I had to chuckle at this entry and comments, really.

Nobody said anything to the hearing people who manipulated our lives in the long run. When we expel our opinions upon others, you whine?

Actually, I believe that Deaf people were not sneering at the kid, they were RUDE at *you* because what you did was very selfish. "I want him to yowl like Mommy and Daddy!"

That is the whole thing -- they were probably rude to the fact that you are selfish mother.


Get a life.


momtocikids said...

Congrats on your son's implants, congrats on being a mom who is taking good care of your son, and please-- don't become jaded about life or people in general. There are loving people in the world. I am not a part of the Deaf Culture, nor am I deaf, but I have encountered Ridor and others of his ilk in other places, and all I can say is that there are MANY more people, both deaf and hearing, who understand what you have done and that you are making loving choices about your son. Hang on to that. In a few years it will be abundantly clear.

Cheers from a mom who has two kids with bilateral CIs.

Just Me said...

Ever heard of paragraphs?

Jill said...

We have been in your shoes even though our son is not implanted. People have seen his aids and start signing. But our son is post-lingually deafened, so he started learning to sign as a teenager. Still, in our first attempts to become involved with the Deaf community, we met some of the angriest people I've ever encountered. As a "not really deaf" son of hearing parents, our son has had encounters that actually make yours in Walmart pale by comparison. (Deaf kids can be just as cruel as hearing ones.)I've been accused of hating my son by forcig him to be oral, or that I am hateful for not loving him as he is and trying to "fix" him. Yet these people know nothing about us as a family and gave me no opportunity to explain anything.

But because of the encouragement of some very nice and kind D/deaf people, we didn't go running the other way for long. My son needs to get to know other deaf people because we do indeed love him for everything he is, the deafness included. We simply kept trying and hoping to encounter the kinder D/deaf people. And we did.

You are going to encounter people who will react the way those did (and believe me that you should feel relieved not to have understood the rapid signing), and you are going to encounter some who will be delighted that your son also signs.

I know from experience that right now you're going to walk the other way the next time you see someone signing, but maybe soon you'll feel you can try again. I encourage you to do it. It's worth it when you do find those nice people, they actually outnumber the angry ones and can add a wonderful new dimension to your lives.

Anonymous said...

I just want to applaud you for leaving the various comments here, even though some of them are meant to be shocking and offensive.

It says a lot about you Emily. You're a strong woman and a great mom to your sweet boy.

Barb DiGi said...

As I am signing (speaking) generally, no one should be have to be forced to tolerate any prejudice behavior from ANYONE, period. Unfortunately, that is how our crazy world behaves and it has nothing to do with the Deaf community as we know it. It happens that there are some strong opinionated Deaf individuals reacting this way just the same way any particular hearing individuals shouting murderer to those who had an abortion when coming out of the clinic. Not that I am comparing CI to abortion but the reaction can be hostile coming from some people to any controversial issues. Let me assure you that in the Deaf community, not everyone necessarily the same just like any individuals from their ethnic groups.

It was saddening for the blunt reaction you had to deal with and I agree it was rude. On the other hand, it is unfortunate that there are plenty of cases where the Deaf have faced hostility from hearing people as well. I am not saying that this should be an excuse for the Deaf to be rude toward hearing people because of how they were treated but they are just being humans. Some people, both Deaf and hearing, show their emotions and some just hide it.

To the embarrassed one, you quoted:

"dont forget that some of you deaf people "stereotype" the Alexander Graham Bell Association with a unnecessary protest you guys had earlier this year."

FYI, you got it all wrong. The protest happened at the AG Bell Convention because of their philosophy along with AVT groups which BANNED signed language and even lipreading. It has nothing to do with stereotyping the AG Bell members but toward the organization that advocates oralism ONLY. The Deaf Bilingual Coalition advocates the right for babies to have access to language using ASL that will promote better cognitive skills according to research and does not ban oracy but promotes it as an accessory. Keep in mind that using speech is a skill whereas using ASL promotes language development. Bilingual education promotes both languages and for a Deaf child to be fluent in ASL, writing, reading and speaking (if applicable). No Deaf child should be forced to use one method only. We all know that using signs with babies increase an IQ of 12-16 points so why deprive them from this wonderful developmental opportunity? AG Bell is going toward the opposite direction to that. It is just wrong to deprive Deaf babies from an accessible, natural language.

Pillar, how could you say the Deaf community is a real problem if you don't know anyone in the community? Again, this is a great example of prejudice. Just STOP it!

Emily, I can see you wanted the best for your Deaf child. I am impressed about your effort to learn the language of the Deaf and to ensure that your communication is clear with him. Just keep it up.

Yep, Target is a nicer place, IMO. When I shopped at Walmart, I had a rude reaction from the cashier who gave me the hand to say in nasty tone (I happened to wear a hearing aid), "Just a minute!" when my Deaf children were not done handing her coins from their savings in a piggy bank for the toys they wanted to purchase. The reaction was harsh and unnecessary and my kids noticed it. I didn't go off blogging saying that it was rude for the Hearing community to put their hand to my face in front of my Deaf children since I knew it was a reaction based on this individual not necessarily from hearing community. By the way, I assertively told her that her reaction was not necessary and she sheepishly changed her tone but did not even apologize. So I reported to the manager to make sure that her behavior was not to be tolerated. By the way, this is not the only reason why I preferred Target over Walmart since it can happen anywhere anyway.

Sorry for the long post but I have to vent it out.

Anonymous said...

Your boy is DEAF. You are trying to deny his identity. Leopards have their spots. So be it. Life sucks, eh?

patti durr said...


Thank you for sharing your encounter with a few (3?) Deaf individuals

You are examining how your son and yourself were stereotyped and the harm it causes him and yourself.

Thank you for examining this. It is important - no one should be rejected based on their appearance (having a CI or not having a CI)

However, I am a bit puzzled because you decry this harsh treatment - this immediate and injustice reaction and in turn YOU YOURSELF proclaim a rejection of the entire Deaf Community as the result of this one encounter - you in turn paint the Deaf community with a very large and injust brush

you stated:
Shunning a toddler is juvenile and cruel. If that's what the deaf community wants to teach my son I hope he stays far away from it. Where are all the kind deaf people?

from your description of the encounter - RUDENESS did take place - yes paging someone to "RUN OVER IMMEDIATELY TO GAWK AT THE CI TODDLER" is rude - no question

the fact that they stopped conversing with you or the son - i can not attribute that to intentional or active SHUNNING - i dont know how much of that was actually your own heightened sensitivity. Deaf people flow in and out of conversations with people so clearly they very engaged in discussing with each other about the implanting of your son right in front of both u and your son - that is RUDE - no question but did they really refuse to communicate with u and your son hence forth

i dont know. i believe u - that this was a harsh and hurtful encounter. One that thankfully ur son being so young wont remember at all. you would do wrong by him to bring it up in the future. it is good of u to discuss with other adults and especially with Deaf individuals in person - id be happy to videophone with u about this.

Noah is now different from many Deaf people - he is in a growing minority. Being in a minority makes him different. Yes it was you (and i assume his dad) who decided to make him different thus he is innocent and should not be rejected based on it. At the same time because this is an "involuntary difference" put upon Noah in which he will encounter Deaf, deaf, hard of hearing, and HEARING people who will react to his difference harshly - NOAH will need to learn to stand up for himself and say he is first and foremost a Deaf-blind individual and proud of it

i respect your decision to give your son a cochlear implant. i thank you for also giving your son ASL and for learning it yourself.

i encourage you to reach out to the broader Deaf community - dont just wait for encounters at Walmart or Tops - find a gentle and a safe place to chat with Deaf folks

if you are continually rejected by all you encounter - then you may "reject us and apply your harsh stereotype" and you may wish for your son to have no dealings with his fellow Deaf people

i truly hope that this will not be the case - i hope you will encounter Deaf people who are good, kind and loving

i simply ask that u do not call the kettle black and do not become that which u hate

i also want u to understand that their is a vast difference between rudeness and cruelty - i do not support either

i wish u and ur Noah all the best

u r my sister and he my brother



Dianrez said...

Hopefully you have seen by now that there is a mixed reaction in the Deaf community, especially among those who are older than 30 years who grew up before the CI became widespread. Only a small number of Deaf people are angry about it; the majority either are cautiously neutral or simply have serious questions about it.

As for those who are younger, like about 20 years old: I am a parent of a 19 year old student at NTID. While waiting in line to register for orientation, I observed MANY new NTID freshmen with CI's, some with two.

If these kids have grown up with CI's why are they coming to NTID where they will be expected to use ASL in the classroom and receive interpreter support in RIT classrooms? Simple. The CI is only an improved hearing aid, it is not the gift of hearing.

By now, my son has made friends among those with CI's and has been asking questions, as I have, but in a different way. He is more curious what the CI will give him if he had it done. Will he have music appreciation? Will he be able to use a phone, even if only with a few people?

Truthfully, I am holding my breath, because of the surgical complication risk. He isn't seriously considering it, but the nature of his questions shows the current thinking among younger Deaf. The future is going to be different, for sure, but we will always all be Deaf. The CI is still not a perfect answer.

Do embrace the Deaf community, for there are many more people who are supportive and take a global view than there are those who take an extreme anti-CI view. The majority have much to offer you and Noah.

Emily said...

Thank you all for the thoughtful comments on this topic. I am encouraged to know that this was an isolated incident and not indicative of the Deaf community as a whole. Some of you have stated that I am sensitive about this, and you're probably right. Choosing a CI was not an easy decision for us (my husband and I) to make. At this point, however, I truly feel it was 100% the right choice for us. My son went from having no ability to communicate at all 8 months ago to now being able to speak and sign. When I see my son discriminated against it hurts me. When I said:
"If that's what the deaf community wants to teach my son I hope he stays far away from it."
I meant it, including the "if". If it is not a common view of the Deaf community that deaf children with CIs should be treated harshly based on their parents' choices then I don't feel the need to shelter my child from it. I hope that the next time I meet some Deaf adults at the store they are less harsh. My son is in love with ASL and it would really make his day to have a conversation with some of you.

The One and Only Ridor said...

Folks, folks. Emily and I had been corresponding via emails. I find her to be a great person who wanted to learn more about this issues OUTSIDE of these so-called professionals (audiologists, speech therapists and doctors)in finding the path for Noah.

I'm all for that.

Getting Noah in touch with deaf-blind individuals are important, too. Seek the guidance at Helen Keller National Center for the Deaf in Fells Point, NY (where I was trained once before) on how to maximize the needs of Deaf-blind's independence and confidence. HKNC is truly wonderful place.

Cochlear implants ain't the cure for all.


Anonymous said...

Sadly, the experience you had is not all that uncommon. This is a fact of life in the Deaf community. There are those in the Deaf community who sterotype hearing individuals and when someone dares say something negative about those in the Deaf community, they lob the accusation that the Deaf community is being sterotyped. Hypocrisy is alive and well. I am Deaf. Deafness in my family is genetic. The majority of Deaf individuals became deaf through illness and not gentics. I wonder, is a person truly Deaf if they are born hearing but lose their hearing from illness? Or is being Deaf more than that? Those who choose to use CI's are simply trying to give their child the best opportunites in life in their own opionion. I personally oppose CI's but I am much more opposed to the some of my fellow Deaf folks behaving in such a manner. Being Deaf is a way of life. It is not going to be altered simply by using a CI. Just as some Deaf individuals use ASL, others use SEE, and yet others choose to lip read. To each their own in their drive to succeed in a competetive world.