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I just attended a whole day of Orientation events at Chapman University. I was thrilled to find that they had ASL interpreters for all the large group events with podium speakers! For the 1 1/2 hour long convocation ceremony, they even had a team! First of all, props to Chapman for understanding and paying for the services Deaf people need. That being said, I think they could improve their service even more.
My husband works at Chapman University, which means that I get to meet all sorts of behind-the-scene University people that most students don’t. At a wedding a while ago, I met the woman who was in charge of booking the interpreters for special events at Chapman. She told me that they were looking to improve the services they offered. I believe I told them about RID certification and how that was a really good way to know you have an amazing interpreter.
The interpreters yesterday were a mixed bag. I think they probably came from an agency, but really I’m just guessing. The first group I watched was a team of two women. The first woman was absolutely amazing and gave an equal-access interpretation. She was funny when the speaker was funny, extremely animated, and caught almost every bit of information being thrown out by the speaker. The second gal was not as good. To be fair, she was interpreting for a man using lots of folksy language and English idioms, but I felt that she didn’t match the speaker very well and she left out a lot of non-essential information.
The team did well, though. I hardly noticed when they switched between each other and they even kept interpreting through the non-captioned video that was shown. I was thoroughly impressed.
That night, I went to a talk on the History and Traditions of Chapman University. It was such a cool and funny class. I was sitting in a really bad place to watch the interpreter (there were very tall people all around me and she was standing on the floor). While I can’t really comment on the rest of the interpreting job she was doing, she didn’t interpret through the non-captioned movie, which I didn’t appreciate.
The two bits of advice I would have to Chapman about using interpreters in the future would be to ask the agency for people who are RID certified or have been interpreting more than five years. They do so much to make their students feel welcome, and I really think it would be such a relief for Deaf students to see that they were getting equal access to information being presented. It would make Deaf parents feel that they were leaving their student in the hands of someone who not only cares, but is willing to go above and beyond to meet the needs of their child.
The second piece of advice would be to put those interpreters on a podium, please!! I’d like to be able to see them no matter where I was sitting, and a little elevation will do just that.
Chapman University is a class act. For people who know next to nothing about interpreters or interpreting, they did really well! I was impressed by everything I saw yesterday, not just the interpreters. Watching their interpreters made me feel like they really cared, though. They really wanted everyone to have a good experience at orientation, not just the “normal” hearing freshmen. I think I’m going to like attending here!
At Disneyland where I work, they allow you to have a n extra little pin at the bottom of your name tag if you speak a language other than English. I think the idea is that people from all over the world come to Disneyland and should you need extra assistance talking to anyone, you can just pull your friend aside who has a “Mandarin” name tag on and they can help you (or whatever language you need). They’re really stringent about who they let have a pin. You have to go and do a special test with a native speaker of that language. If you pass the test, they put our name on a list, and only people with their name on the list are allowed to have the pin.
They offer an ASL name tag, but I’ve been holding off on getting one until I felt I knew enough sign to really help someone. Besides, the guy I would be testing with is a CODA, interpreted for Hundreds of years at Disney World (OK, I’m exaggerating), and is now head of disability services for the whole park… very nerve-wracking. I’m starting interpreting classes now, though. I felt like this was something I should certainly be able to pass. I also felt like this is just the first in a series of tests that I’m going to be taking in the next few years, so I better get used to it.
Really, it ended up being super easy and a lot of fun. The guy who tested me was extremely friendly and knowledgeable. As soon as he started explaining what would happen, I knew I would pass no problem. The test consisted of three parts: Part one, he would give me a vocabulary work and I would sign it back to him. Part two, he would sign a work or small phrase and I would tell him what he said. Part 3 was a short conversation. I don’t think I’ve taken a test so easy since ASL 1. He was impressed that I knew the sign for “tickets” (super-easy!!!) and the hardest thing he signed to me was that he lost his 7-year-old daughter and explained to me what she was wearing. The conversation part consisted of the information you give to every deaf person you meet at any Deaf Event. When the test was over, he told me that he thought it was the quickest he’s ever given, as he just skipped over the easy stuff. Let me tell you, I felt great!!
The best part about the meeting, though, was all the information he gave me on Deaf Services at Disneyland. He was saying that people will see my pin and expect me to be an expert, so he’d give me all the information he could. Such cool stuff!! They have a little handheld Closed Captioning device that’s radio-tuned to the ride, so people on the ride can read what the overhead voice is saying in places like the haunted mansion. They also offer interpreted performances four days a week, 2 days at California Adventure, and 2 days at Disneyland. I have to say, I kinda want to ask for one of those Closed Captioning devices the next time I’m in the park. It would be fun to see how accurate they are and how easy they are to read and use while riding the ride. I’ll definitely have to do that and report back.
The other thing we discussed that I thought was interesting is when I’m allowed to interpret and when I’m not. It’s all stuff we’ve covered in classes I’ve taken too, but I thought it was great that he’s concerned about Deaf people having qualified interpreters when they need them. All in all, I was very impressed with my Disney Deaf experience. I can’t wait to try out their stuff for myself. And in the mean time, I’ll be waiting for my pin to arrive!!
aturday was horrifically hot and awful. It was over 100 degrees, and you could see the waves of heat coming off the macadam roadways. Instead of staying inside like any decent person would, I worked Deaf West’s booth at DEAFestival LA. Aside from the unbearable heat, I had an amazing time!
My shift at the booth was supposed to start at 2:00, but I hit the inevitable LA traffic. That, coupled with a 3 car accident on the side of the road, served to make me a bit late. As I pulled off the freeway, I saw with relief the little sign procaiming DEAFestival parking, and a blue arrow pointing the way in. Murphy’s law tends to work out so that whenever I’m running late, I usually get lost too. I was excited that didn’t have to worry about that today. I drove down a dusty road while a volunteer pointed me to park in a vast expanse of dustiness. There was a bus, shuttling people from parking lot to festival, so I retrieved my purse from the back seat of the car, straightened my new blue “Deaf West” shirt, and trudged through the dust to the bus stop. I was excited when I knew one of the volunteers helping people park! She also volunteers at Deaf West sometimes. We chatted a little before I took my place in the shade to await the bus.
It probably took less that 15 minutes for the bus to arrive, but the opressive heat made it seem like much longer. My little Disney Heat Index trained self was telling me to drink water NOW or suffer the consequesces. Too bad I hadn’t brought any with me. As I waited, I caught snippets of conversation from the others waiting for the bus. I think that’s the first time I’ve understood parts of ASL conversation without trying too. Evidence I’m getting better?
The bus dropped us all off underneath a line of tall pine trees, next to another field of dustines. Blue Easy-ups stretched out in the vast expanse of brown dirt while people bustled here and there. I joined them, determined to rush around and find the Deaf West booth as quickly as possible. As soon as I joined the crowd, a woman stopped me.
“Hi! You work for Deaf West?” she asked, signing with a very student accent.
“No, I’m a volunteer.” I signed back.
“Are you hearing?” She asked me.
“Oh thank goodness.” She said to me in English. She wanted to know about volunteering at Deaf West. I told her that I considered it an amazing experience, that they needed people for just about everything, and that she could go on the website and fill out their form if she was interested. We exchanged names, and I went on my way.
I found the booth pretty quickly, in the middle of the middle aisle. Ty, the Deaf West representative was chatting with someone in front of me. “Hi!” I signed to him, ” I’m volunteering today. I’m soooo sorry I’m late!”
“Don’t worry about it.” He signed back to me, and I took my place behind the counter. The next two hours were great. I chatted with people in my bad ASL, handed out forms, asked them if they wanted to win tickets, explained the shows that were coming up, and all together had an amazing time. They even had bottles of water for us to drink so we didn’t get dehydrated! The other girl who was volunteering with me was an ASL 2 student, and she did so well!! I don’t know that I would have done as well as she did when I was in ASL 2. We made friends fast, and exchanged numbers at the end of our booth stint. Several Deaf people asked me my name, several more decided to tease me (which I always enjoy), and I saw a lot of funny t-shirts. “I laughed my ASL off” was one of the t-shirts I really liked, but my favorite by far was “Don’t Scream, I’m not that Deaf.” I also saw a LOT of people I knew milling about in the crowd. It was exciting to know that I was recognizing people and becoming a part of the community, slowly but surely.
When my booth stint was up, I wandered around for a few minutes. I decided several months ago that my dream interpreting job would be to work for GLAD (Greater Los Angeles Agency for the Deaf), so I was excited to see their signs. I took a bunch of fliers, figuring I would peruse them later. I also walked around to see if there was any ASL merchandise I wanted to buy. Sadly there were only two booths selling things, and they were things I really wasn’t interested in. The other thing I really missed was the TTY museum. Maybe they decided not to attend because all their antique machines would be outside in the dust. Aside from all the booths with Deaf themes, booths from the city of Los Angeles were there too. The Democratic party had a booth, the water district had a booth, and so did one of the candidates for city council. It was nice to see people who aren’t part of the Deaf community trying to participate. I commend them for trying, but it didn’t seem like many people were interested in what they were doing. To be honest, I wasn’t very interested in what they were doing either.
I had an appointment that evening, so after I strolled leisurely through the rows of booths, I took the bus back to my dust-covered car and went on my merry way. It was a great day! I think my ASL stood up really well to the challenge of explaining things, I got to meet neat people, and I got to spend time with the Deaf community. What could be better than that? Not a whole lot.
fter going to the Mata Expo for a couple of years, I felt like I knew exactly what to expect from the Deaf Nation Expo. And it was pretty much as I pictured it: booths and vendors and people everywhere on a much bigger scale than Mata. The event took place at the Pomona Fairplex in one of their giant concrete buildings. As soon as I crossed the bridge from the parking lot, I knew right where the expo was happening. A giant mob of people were standing and signing outside the building, and a huge line on one side indicated all the people who hadn’t signed up for free tickets beforehand. There was one difference for me from the other expos I had been to. I was bringing my husband, Brian, who doesn’t know any ASL and has only spent time with highly oral Deaf people.
I usually feel like having Brian along makes everything a better experience, but so far I’ve avoided taking him to Deaf things. I always worry that the language barrier will be too much for him, and that he’ll have a terrible time. Lately, I’ve been trying to convince him to learn ASL with me. So I’ve envited him to the last few Deaf things and he’s come willingly. I know he feels awkward about it, but he seems to have a good time in a surreal, culture shock kind of way. Bringing Brian to Deaf Nation turned out to be one of the best things ever. I’m naturally shy and won’t ask people things, even if I’d like to know. Brian always wants to know, and isn’t shy about marching up to people he’s never met. Because I was his “voice” that day, I ended up asking people all sorts of things that I never would have thought of on my own. I got a lot of really neat information, too. Did you know that the first TTY machines actually communicated using Morse Code? I didn’t either. I guess the first model that Robert Weichtbreit and James Marsdon put together was a machine that would either take in the Morse Code and translate it to English or take the English and translate in into Morse Code, depending on which way the information was flowing. Cool, huh? And I never would have known if it hadn’t been for Brian. Even though he didn’t know ASL, he ended up enriching my ASL experience. He’s so great like that. 🙂
This is the first time I’ve been out in the Deaf community that I’ve acutally seen people I know in droves. At past events, I might run into one of my classmates at a large event, but for the vast majority of the time I’m alone with no support. This time, I saw a ton of people I know. Other students from my classes, people I know from Deaf West, old teachers, everyone was milling about in that giant building. For the first time, I felt like I could maybe be considered a part of the community. It was great.
I think most importantly, though, it left me wanting more. I haven’t been able to attend all the weekend Deaf Events in Southern California because I’ve been working at Deaf West, but once the show is over I definitely need to start doing those things again. I miss being out in the community and chatting in ASL with people I just met. I’m starting actual interpreting classes (not the pre-interpreting stuff I’ve been doing) in 6 months. I need more practice fast! That means I’ll be doing everything I can to get into the community and chat more. See you around.
OK, this is a little long and wordy. What can I say? I’m back in school and I’m feeling more schollarly-like. 🙂
he Deaf President Now protests of 1988 were a huge turning point in Deaf history. Until this point, Deaf people had not been responsible for their own leadership. Even Gallaudet University, a place many people believe to be the Mecca of Deaf Culture, was run by a hearing president and a hearing board of directors. Over a week of intense protest, all that changed. Deaf people snatched their destiny from the hands of the hearing and installed a Deaf president and a 51% Deaf board of directors at the college, reigning in a new era of Deaf Pride. While the Deaf President Now rallies were empowering, it raises a question in my eyes. The Civil Rights era kicked off in this country with the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. All through the 1960s, groups raised up and demanded to be treated equally. Why did it take the Deaf community almost 30 years to insist upon their rights as well? I believe there were three root causes: the sad state of Deaf Education for many years, the fact that Gallaudet University had the same hearing president from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, and the uncertainty of the Deaf community that hearing people would let a Deaf president be successful.
What really happened during the Deaf President Now protest? Several campus leaders got wind of the fact that the current President, a hearing man, would be stepping down. They immediately started lobbying for a Deaf president to be appointed. Things looked to be going well when the Board of Trustees announced their final three candidates for the position. Two were Deaf, and only one was hearing. Unfortunately, the Board decided to pick the only hearing candidate as the next president. Worse still, the woman, named Elisabeth A. Zinser, didn’t even know sign language. The Board announced their decision rather cowardly, at a local hotel, and not on campus where they knew there would be extremely unpopular. Students awaiting the decision at the Gallaudet campus were upset that the decision had not been announced to the group it mattered the most to, and they also wanted answers. They all decided to march to the hotel and demand to know why a Deaf president wasn’t chosen, and they made it just in time to interrupt a national press conference. With a whole nation watching, the Board had to play nice. They offered to meet with the Student Body the next morning.
All night, student leaders met to decide what their demands would be. They finally settled on four concrete demands: 1) Zinser must resign and a Deaf president selected; 2) Spillman, the director of the Board who continually brushed aside student concerns, must resign; 3) The percentage of Deaf members on the Board of Trustees must be increased to at least 51%; 4) There must be no reprisals against any of the protesters. Just before the large student meeting, the student leaders presented the Board of Trustees with their demands. The board rejected all of them. As soon as the meeting started and Spillman started to speak, one of the student leaders jumped up on the podium. “They have rejected our demands” he signed, “there is no reason for us to stay. Let’s all leave.” As the director futilely tried to regain everyone’s attention, waves of people moved out the doors. They traveled off campus to the nation’s capital where the protest was kicked off in full force.
Protests continued constantly for several more days. Students refused to attend classes, and the whole campus completely ceased to function. When Zinser arrived in Washington DC to take over the presidency, students flattened the tires of several buses which blocked all access to the campus. Zinser could not even get onto the campus of the University she was supposed to be leading. She called a meeting with the student leaders and told them she would put a 51% deaf majority on the Board of Directors and would guarantee no reprisals, but that she wouldn’t step down, and wouldn’t let Spillman resign. Zinser was polite and understanding, and urged them to work with her. Though the student leaders felt that she was a good person, the knew they would never get what they wanted if they gave up now. Again they marched to the capital and resumed protesting in full force. Faced with a non-functioning University that no one could even enter or leave, the Board of Trustees had no choice. On March 13, 1988, the Board agreed to all student demands and I. King Jordan was elected the first Deaf president of Gallaudet University.
So why did it take Deaf people 30 years longer than hearing people to stand up for their rights? One of the most important reasons is that, until recently, the catastrophic state of Deaf Education in America kept Deaf people from entering many important careers. Early in the 20th century, Alexander Graham Bell and others advocated for a completely oral approach to teaching Deaf students. They refused to let them sign, took them out of the classroom so they could attend thousands of hours of speech therapy, and encouraged them to go to trade school as opposed to university. This method was completely uneffective and stressed the importance of sounding “normal” at the expense of education. At the mercy of their hearing parents, Deaf people had little to no say in the kind of education they recieved. Many Deaf people graduated from these programs barely literate, trapped in blue collar jobs, and unqualified to lead a major institution. In the 1970’s, when sign language came into it’s own as a true and valid language, Deaf education changed in this country; Oral only programs fell out of favor, higher education was stressed, and Deaf people began to hold white collar jobs and positions of leadership. Suddenly, they were qualified to be president.
In 1969, Edward C. Merrill, Jr. was elected the 4th hearing president of Gallaudet University, and he didn’t step down from that position until the 1980’s. While Deaf people may have wanted a Deaf person to be president of the University before the 1980’s, they didn’t have a chance to stand up for their rights until the president decided to step down. Another hearing president was elected after Merrill, but when they heard he was going to resign, students acted immediately. They started a grassroots movement to have a Deaf president installed, and they were passing out DPN buttons almost a year before the last hearing president resigned. Having a hearing president from the 1960s up to the 1980s didn’t allow Deaf people to assert their position any sooner, but when they saw their opening, they took it almost immediately.
Another small factor in electing a Deaf president was that Deaf people were not sure hearing people would let a Deaf president succeed. There were two main reasons for this concern: 1)Gallaudet University gets most of it’s funding from the United States Congress. 2) Deaf people tend to hear from hearing people all about what they can’t do, and deal with discrimination called “Audism” all their life. If the hearing people in Congress were prejudiced against Deaf people, or refused to work with the president, Gallaudet University could be in serious financial trouble. Everyone was certain that a Deaf person could handle any and all aspects of the job itself, but they didn’t know if the hearing community would pause long enough to put aside their Audism and give a Deaf president a chance. Though these concerns were ultimately proven to be unfounded (Congressional support actually increased by a bunch under I. King Jordan), at the time they were real concerns for many in the Deaf community. Not that a Deaf president could do the job, but that a Deaf president would be allowed to do the job. A superficiall worry, this would certainly not have held the community back from insisting on a Deaf president, but it may have stalled things temporarily.
Though the civil rights in this country happened for most minority groups in the 1960’s I believe that the Deaf community was not behind the times by waiting until the 1980’s to stand up for their rights. Deaf people, through catastrophic educational conditions, no opportunity to replace the president of Gallaudet, and worries that a Deaf president would not be allowed to succeed, were not ready in the 1960’s to take over their destiny as completely as they did later in the century. Because of the Deaf President Now protests, Deaf people are leading their own community as never before. There are Deaf roll-models for children to grow up revering. Oral only schools are almost non-existent now. Would this have been able to happen in the 1960’s? Yes, but it would have been a harder and longer fight.
first came across Keith Wann on Youtube. I was looking for videos in ASL so I could improve my receptive skills, and I came across his hilarious version of the Sir Mixalot song “I Like Big Butts” in American Sign Language. It was hilarious to watch Keith awkwardly sign the song, almost as if he was the 10 year old boy he was talking about in his story. After watching this gem, I was introduced to Keith’s version of “Ice Ice Baby”, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” and tons of little stand up comic bits, like his explanation of how technology ruined Deaf Pizza Night. I was rolling on the floor laughing by the end of it. I insisted that my husband, who doesn’t know any ASL, come and watch all of them immediately. He ended up in stitches as well.
I don’t know why it never donned on me that there were ASL comedians out there. I know about C. J. Jones, of course, and he’s what most people would call a comedian as well as an actor and writer. I just never thought there might be more people on a mission to entertain the signing masses by making them laugh so hard they fall over.
I’m always on the lookout for more biographies of Famous Deaf Americans. Keith isn’t deaf, he’s a CODA, but I thought I might want to include a biography anyway. He’s been really important to me lately in my quest to learn ASL. To my surprise, I found that he and a bunch of others were touring around the country with the ASL Comedy Tour. Even better, they were coming to my area!! I immediately bought 2 tickets, one for me and one for my husband.
We arrived at the Marriott in Irvine about an hour early, then waited in the hotel lobby for the time to pass. I’m always nervous in situations when I know I’m going to have to interact in sign. I have a decent vocabulary, but I never seem to get any better than “rusty”, and my grammar is bad. I’m also never sure how to behave with a non-ASL-speaker present. I don’t want to just sign, because they won’t understand me, but I don’t want to not sign because the deaf people won’t understand me and it’s rude. It’s a catch 22.
It ended up not being a problem. People all around us were talking, so I felt comfortable talking as well. My husband and I sat and just enjoyed the general atmosphere when suddenly the comedy started. I realized once again how in love with ASL I am. Even when it’s dirty, it’s just so picturesque. There was a voice interpreter, so my husband understood most of what was going on, although occasionally he missed things because the crowd was laughing so hard he couldn’t hear the interpreter. I was thrilled to realize that I understood almost everything that was happening, even when I couldn’t hear the interpreter.
There were four comedians that performed that night. Keith Wann was first, Branton Stewart was second, then came Peter Cook, and Finally Crom Sanders. I was so disappointed when the night was over. I could have listened to all of them go on for hours. After their acts were finished, anyone who wanted to could go on stage and take pictures with all of them. I was shy at first, but I finally got up the gumption to ask for a picture. I was then able to tell them all how much I had enjoyed myself.
I know my husband experienced mad culture shock, but the night only made me realize more fully how much I love ASL and Deaf Culture. It also made me realize that my ASL is coming quicker, I don’t have to think about it as much as before. That must mean I’m getting better, right?
But seriously, if you’ve never seen any of these guys sign, you need to check them out immediately. They are the funniest guys I have ever met, and they will revolutionize your ASL experience.
I thought for sure that there were Deaf events I went to last semester that I never posted about, and in looking through my old school papers, I found this one. It’s the very first time I ever went out into the Deaf community, twords the end of my first semester of ASL. I know I still have a long way to go before I become an amazing ASL speaker, but reading this makes me realize how far I’ve come.
went to the MATA convention by myself, as no one I knew could make it on Friday, the only day I could go. I went after work, knowing I’d only have a few hours to peruse the convention before it closed. Usually I drag my husband Brian to these things. He’s always up to new experiences and it’s nice to not feel wholly alone in a crowd of strangers, I knew Brian would be good moral support. As I pulled up to that giant white building full of windows, I thought of him in his safe little cubicle at work. I wished I was there myself. I am notoriously shy in social situations and I abhor feeling stupid, something I was sure I couldn’t avoid with my inferior ASL 1 vocabulary. I’m well aware that it takes time to be good at things, but I never want to wait that long. I’d like to be good right off the bat, especially if I’m displaying my inexperience to large groups of people. I was very nervous.
I was relieved as I stepped inside the giant room where the MATA conference was held. It looked just like any other convention I had been to, with the bright banners stretched behind folding tables spread with interesting items. There were thick crowds of people milling from one booth to another and, besides the people signing back and forth, this was a scene I was familiar with. I couldn’t follow anything people were saying to each other, my sign language skills were not quick enough to keep up, but you could certainly tell the emotions people were trying to get across. Most people seemed happy to be there.
I knew this was a good opportunity to practice my signing skills, and even though people were extremely nice to me and tried to start conversation, I felt odd about it. I realized that even in the English speaking world that I live in, I usually give a quickly polite answer to any question that’s asked of me, and don’t elaborate. By the time I had thought of more to say, the person I was speaking to at the booths had usually moved on to the next person. It didn’t help that I usually didn’t know the signs for anything I could ask about at the booth. In class I feel like I can communicate anything I want to, but out in the actual world, it’s a little different. I realized how much I’m hampered by my lack of vocabulary. I definitely felt as if people wanted to be inclusive and friendly. Those I did sign briefly with were incredibly kind in signing slowly so I could understand.
I’m glad I went to the MATA convention, instead of to a reading or other type of Deaf Event. I’ve heard of some of the services available to deaf people, such as fire alarms that shake the bed and doorbells that flash a light. It was really neat to see all the products and services out there, especially the video chats, which make life the same for a deaf person as for a hearing person, as far as technological conveniences are concerned. It was neat to get to understand that aspect of deaf life.
I learned a lot at the MATA convention. I loved seeing all the neat products they had displayed, and I liked seeing people sign back and forth to one another. It made me want to be better at ASL, so I could join in on the conversation as well, though I didn’t understand what people were saying. It also made me realize how little I communicate in English when I’m alone in a large group. Usually my conversation is confined to “Oh, I’m fine thank you,” and “no, I’m just looking.” It was harder to branch out from that habit into actual conversation especially because I was trying to use a new language. Visiting the MATA convention made me excited to be better at ASL, and excited to practice communication in the new language I’m learning. It was a great experience.
I don’t remember how many I attended for ASL 2, but I know that I attended 4 last semester. If we take that as the norm, that’s 8 per year. So my concrete and unchangeable resolution is that I will attend more than 8 Deaf Events this year.
You can count the entries to see how I’m doing, if you want. Otherwise, I’ll report back on how I did next January.
alifornia School for the Deaf, Riverside was all aflutter with activity. The football field was blindingly lit. Clumps of parents stood around in awful flourescent yellow vests proclaiming “Event Staff” in black letters. A long line of cars waited patiently to pull into the parking lot. I parked by a tree and made my way to the football field in time to see the kickoff, winding my way through a busy avenue of red easy-ups selling food, Riverside t-shirts, and phone services. Kids ran here and there throughout the vast crowd, a sea of sporadic red. Some of them had paws or “go cubs” drawn on their faces in red lipstick as they ran. I took my place awkwardly at the back of the crowd, trying to find a spot where I wouldn’t be in the way, but could still see the football game. As I watched the crowd around me, the cheerleaders trying to excite the crowd and the game happeining on the field, it struck me just how similar and different this event was from the events I had been to at my mainstream high school.
A festival atmosphere surrounded the crowd. It was impossible not to notice how excited everyone was to be there. As I joined them, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet the crowd was in comparison to a hearing crowd of the same size. There was very little talking going on, with everyone signing excitedly to their neighbor. Hearing children would run by me, chattering to their friends as they went, and students stood talking quietly in little groups. People were constantly walking by me on their way for another drink or a funnel cake, and they would inevitably be stopped by someone who was thrilled to see them. It seemed to me as if the whole crowd knew each other.
There was a cheer squad standing on the sidelines in red outfits. They stood in lines, high school aged girls in red and white cheer uniforms and little elementary aged girls in white t-shirts with red pleated skirts. They did several routines clumped together on the sidelines, staying together as well as if there were invisible music playing. At half time when they spread apart onto the field, they weren’t as united as when they had been clumped together, but they were still very good. As the night wore on, the littler girls joined the crowd and the cheerleaders started throwing things into the audience. Suddenly, people were waving their arms and cheering at the girls, just to get a little football thrown their way. It was the first time all night that the crowd seemed interested in what was happeining on the field. The cheerleaders were great, but somehow they didn’t seem to hold my interest like they normally do at a game.
On my way back from the snack booth at half time, I ran into Red from my Deaf Culture class and I realized that she was standing with a whole group of people who I also knew. I joined them, chatted a lot, and tried to keep one eye on the game. For some reason, I had such a hard time paying attention to anything going on out there. Every once in a while I would look up and realize that the score was different, but there had been no fanfare to tell me that things had changed, no collective cheer or groan from the audience about another touchdown being scored.
Overall my experience was great, if a little unusual. It took me a long time to find people I knew in the crowd, and I spent most of my time feeling outside of things. At the same time, people tapping my shoulder to ask me to move or signing “excuse me”, and being otherwise treated politely like a true member of Deaf Culture, made me feel like I belonged. While things were remarkably similar to the Homecoming activities I remembered from my own days in high schoo, the lack of noise and the lack of attention payed to the game really marked this event as different. I think that if I knew more people there I would have loved going to Homecoming. As it was I had a very good time and would certainly go again.