One of the things you need to know when making connections with Deaf people is what to expect when you meet someone, and what to expect when getting to know someone. Connections in the Deaf world are important, and upon meeting information exchanged will help determine your connection to the Deaf community. Here are some things commonly shared upon meeting someone.
First and last names:
You need to be able to spell your first and last name. The Deaf person will also spell their first and last name. Don’t be shy to ask them to spell their name several times until you understand it.
Deaf or hearing:
Deaf people, even from different countries all over the world, have many shared experiences. Finding out if a person is Deaf or hearing is a way to move the introduction in an appropriate direction. The Deaf person will ask different questions about a person’s background and experience in the Deaf community depending on the answer.
If you are hearing:
After exchanging names, and establishing that you are hearing, a Deaf person may ask where you are learning ASL, whether or not your teacher is Deaf, the f first and last name of your teacher, and possibly why you are learning ASL. This begins your connection.
If you are Deaf:
After exchanging names, and establishing you are Deaf, a Deaf person will ask where you grew up, if you went to a Deaf school, what years you went to school there, whether or not you went to Gallaudet — and if yes– which class. Based on these questions, the conversation might move to discussing people you might know in common.
Deepening the connection:
Within the Deaf community, Deaf people strengthen social bonds by participating in various community activities like sports, clubs, conferences, and other social events. Former classmates, co-workers, friends and acquaintances travel for miles to attend these Deaf events, maintaining contact with each other and sharing news about themselves, mutual friends, and the community at large – expanding their connection to the community.
To start your connection to the Deaf community, you need to be able to introduce yourself, and give information about your class and teacher (so learn how to spell your teacher’s first and last name). Remember the first and last name of the Deaf person you meet, so you can tell your teacher about meeting them. Your teacher may know the Deaf person you meet, and sharing that information with your teacher shows that you are fostering your own connections.