Arts & Literature

Proud to be Deaf

Aimee Whyte

Being Deaf is one of my best qualities,
It’s helped me become aware of all minorities,
To broaden my mind,
To understand the difference between
Prejudice and discrimination.
Being Deaf has allowed me to talk and sing
In a beautiful language that is visual.
Being Deaf has given me the opportunity
To experience life in a dorm along with my peers.
It has taught me to be independent and to never give up.
I learned that there are a variety of ways to communicate,
There are no limitations so I never limit myself.
Being Deaf has put me through hard times
And I have learned several things the hard way.
Being Deaf has allowed me to live in two different worlds
And to communicate with others
Whose language differs mine.
Being Deaf has made me a stronger person,
It has allowed me to find the true meaning of pride.
Being Deaf has made me the person I am today
And I am proud of who I am.
No doubt about it!

Aimee, a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology College, majored in Professional and Technical communications. Her parents and younger sister are both Deaf. Aimee has written poetry since she was 10. In her own words, “Through poetry, I am able to express my innermost thoughts, feelings and experiences. Being Deaf is part of my whole life.” Joanne S. Cripps (2000). Quiet Journey Understanding the Rights of Deaf Children, The Ginger Press, Owen Sound, Ont. Canada, P 24

You Have to be Deaf to Understand

by Willard J. Madsen

"You Have to be Deaf to Understand" was written by Willard J. Madsen, associate professor at Gallaudet College and a graduate of the Kansas School for the Deaf. Written in 1971, the poem first appeared in the Dee Cee Eyes and has since been reprinted in publications all over the country. It has received worldwide attention and has been translated into seven diffferent languages.

What is it like to "hear a hand?
You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like to be a small child,
In a school, in a room void of sound-
With a teacher who talks and talks and talks;
And then when she does come around to you,
She expects you to know what she's said?
You have to be deaf to understand.

Or the teacher thinks that to make you smart,
You must first learn how to talk with your voice;
So mumbo-jumbo with hands on your face
For hours and hours without patiences or end,
Until out comes a faint resembling sound?
You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like to be curious,
To thirst for knowledge you can call your own,
With an inner desire that's set on fire-
And you ask a brother, sister, or friend
Who looks in asnwer and says "Never mind"?
You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like in a corner to stand,
Though there's nothing you've done really wrong,
Other than try to make use of your hands
To a silent peer to communicate
A thought that comes to your mind all at once?
You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like to be shouted at
When one thinks that will help you hear;
Or misunderstand the words of a friend
Who is trying to make a joke clear,
And you don't get the point because he's failed?
You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like to be laughed at in the face
When you try to repeat what is said;
Just to make sure that you've been understood,
And you find that the words wre misread-
And you want to cry out, "Please help me, friend?"
You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like to have to depend
Upon one who can hear to phone a friend;
Or place a call to a business firm
And be forced to share what's personal, and,
Then find that your message wasn't made clear?
You have to be deaf to understand.

WHat is it like to be deaf and alone
In the company of those who can hear-
And ou only guess as you go along,
As you try to keep up with words and song?
You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like on the road of life
To meet with a stranger who opens his mouth-
Ands speaks out a line at a rapid pace;
And you can't understand the look in his face
Because it is new and you're lost in the race?
You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like to comprehend
Some nimble fingers that paint the scene,
And make you smile and feel serene
With the "spoken word" of the moving hand
that makes you part of the world at large?
You have to be deaf to understand.

What is it like to "hear" a hand?
Yes, you have to be deaf to understand.