Experiencing American Deaf Culture (International Sign with captions available; no audio)

Experiencing American Deaf Culture (International Sign with captions available; no audio)


Because I grew up in
a small Greek city where I never socialized
with other Deaf people, I never thought there
were other people like me. From kindergarten
through high school, I attended a mainstream school that didn’t provide
support services, nor were teachers aware of
Deaf culture and deafness. As a child, I didn’t
really realize I was Deaf, despite being born
with hearing loss too extensive to
use hearing aids. Instead, I considered myself a
person with a problem in my ears and difficulty interacting well
with hearing people. My concept of myself began to
change during my college years, when I decided to learn
Greek Sign Language (GSL). This gave me the chance to be
involved with the Deaf community for the first time, which helped
me realize how much I had missed by not socializing
with other Deaf people. GSL and Greek Deaf culture
fascinated me, so I decided my career
would be in those areas. When my GSL teacher encouraged
me to pursue a graduate program in the United States through
the U.S. Department of State’s Fulbright Foreign
Student Program, I recognized it as an opportunity
to further this career goal. The Fulbright Foreign Student
Program enables graduate students, young professionals,
and artists from abroad to study and conduct research
in the United States. The program operates in over
155 countries worldwide. Approximately 4,000
foreign students receive Fulbright
fellowships each year. I interviewed with the Fulbright
Commission in Athens, Greece, where I received a
positive response, and I felt doors
opening up to me. Then the National Technical
Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of
Technology in Rochester, New York, accepted me into its graduate
program focused on Deaf education. As my Fulbright program
got underway, I learned about
the field of Deaf education and Deaf culture
in the United States. The perspectives people have
on these topics fascinated me. In Greece people know
little about these issues, but in the United States books
on these topics are plentiful. As I explored this new culture and learned American
Sign Language (ASL). It amazed me to meet Deaf people
who were able to attend college and do other things that
would not be possible or accepted in Greece,
like piloting an airplane. I experienced different
points of view that helped me to face aspects
of my own deafness and accept it. I also received accommodations that I couldn’t
imagine in Greece. Faculty taught all the courses
for my graduate programs in ASL and a certified professional
interpreted between ASL and spoken English in meetings where the participants
didn’t use sign language. In addition, movies at some
theaters provided open captioning that are similar to
subtitles for foreign movies. These accommodations were
so practical and helpful that I had no problem adapting
to my new surroundings. I hope someday
Deaf people in Greece can have access to these
types of accommodations to provide encouragement
and support in their personal and
professional lives. During my Fulbright program, I gained significant
personal insights about respect and sensitivity
for people with disabilities… as well as self-confidence and
pride in my deafness… and a belief that Deaf people
can improve their lives if they work hard. I received professional
benefits, too, by working with Deaf people, learning about
American Deaf culture and developing my ASL skills. Those experiences
gave me the confidence to improve my skills in GSL and apply my knowledge
in Deaf education. I went home with a
renewed commitment to work in the Deaf community and to encourage human rights
for Greek Deaf citizens… by working with the
governing administration to achieve some of the
accommodation ideas I had discovered abroad.

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