Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – An Interesting Change

Recently, I began to work with people who are deaf and blind. These individuals have become a part of my responsibilities in the past six months. At first, I was afraid and overwhelmed by these new challenges.

I was at a recent appointment working with an individual who uses sign language as their main method of face to face communication. This means, when I schedule an appointment with this individual, I have to make sure there are sign language interpreters there as well. These individuals have quite an exhausting job. They must interpret my spoken words to the student in sign language. Then, the individual signs back to the interpreter and then the interpreter speaks the message to me. In observing this dynamic way of communicating, it quickly becomes apparent that it takes longer to have a conversation. It is important to speak carefully and to listen carefully to what the interpreter is communicating to avoid any misunderstandings.

I’ve worked with people who use Braillenotes as their technology of choice and I’ve worked with people who are using screen magnification software as their technology of choice. In each case, I am fascinated by how quickly these individuals have learned to use their hardware and software to communicate with the outside world. I give them a lot of credit for accomplishing these tasks, because they have an extra barrier to deal with, one that I had never thought about until I worked with them.

When I first met these individuals, I was actually afraid because I had never worked with anyone who can only communicate with sign language in the past. I thought I couldn’t speak in the same way as I do with those individuals who don’t need sign language. I quickly lost my fears and learned that these people are just like me. Now when I visit them, I make jokes with them and speak to them exactly as I would if they verbally spoke back to me. I respect and appreciate working with them and I am glad to have gained this amazing experience.

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