I work predominantly with the hearing world in both public city and private colleges. Strangely, after many years of college teaching I have never once had a Deaf or Hard of Hearing student. I find this statistic perplexing and very curious. Were there people like myself all along that never came forward or is the percentage of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people much smaller than I imagine? Another curious statistic, not one of the college or universities department’s that I have taught for and or currently teach for has a Deaf or Hard of Hearing person(s) on their faculty roster. Am I wrong and you are reading this? If so, will you let me know? Interesting stats? I will write a specific essay on this soon which will clarify a few things. First things first though, I have been a college professor of art & design for 14.5 years teaching simultaneously between 5 colleges. I teach between 7-8 different courses each semester and manage over 210 students per year (that is over 3,000 students and counting.) Less than 1% of my current and past students and colleagues have no idea that I am Deaf and Hard of Hearing. I take responsibility for this. I’m much more assertive now, proud and inspired to share my story. If you know me, you may ponder and say, “but, Ryan, you can speak really well” or “I never noticed”. Or, “how is this possible?” “How can you understand me, respond and lead our class?” These are all the very common reasonings and assessments but also the classic cliché’ statements made by hearing people trying to relate to Deaf and H of H people. I take responsibility for misleading you, we can talk more about this now.
I think that the biggest confusion and misinterpretation between hearing people understanding Deaf and hard of hearing people is that there is no “one-size fits all” definition. The only way to begin to understand is to break the never before questioned default perceptions that one may have. This statement applies to almost anything we need to challenge and redefine to educate ourselves. This will take a bit of research and time. I can certainly share my experiences with you here and beyond to give you a sense of what I experience but it will not justify what another Deaf or H of H person might. In fact, I’m sure it will be very different. I can only lead by example, and that means being more transparent about my life and how I am growing. I have realized that by empowering myself I am also helping to empower others. Meaning, I can begin teaching basic sign language with my hearing students. I see this as a huge asset to everyone involved, especially since I too am new to ASL and learning. Another misconception about Deaf and H of H people, not everyone has had access to ASL or sign language at the same time, this is also another blog post in and of itself that is coming soon. I have decided, beginning with my fall 2018 classes each student that shares a course with me will learn the American Sign Language alphabet and how to finger spell through-out the course. I will also share basic ASL signs. Communication is our highest priority and birthright, and that means we all play a role in how we will expand, learn, teach and even create new forms of communication to understand our fellow human beings on new levels.
The pieces in this post are new works of digital cut and paste collage expressing the integration of American Sign Language into my everyday application of communication. Some aspects flow very easily while others are frustrating and complex. I like discipline and the everyday practice of ASL is something I look forward to. It’s not easy by any means but I love it and also enjoy teaching what I am learning. Want to communicate more with me this way? Lets!
This body of work is also a continuation of the 2018, Digital Illustrations, Digital Art, Animated GIFs & Video works from my current online exhibition. A continued series of manipulated images and re-compositions. The variations of each piece show the process of how the works displayed are visual representations for the missing of sounds, words and overall communication. They are intended to be both subtle, confusing and difficult to follow. A representation of the daily life I experience between the world of the hearing and the non.