Simple Forum 4.2 - Ministry with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Simple Forum 4.2 - Ministry with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Bishop Johnson takes care to recognize the differences between members of the Deaf culture and those who are hard of hearing or late-deafened. Is this a distinction with which you are familiar? Have you had any experience in ministry with either of these groups? Have you learned any insights that facilitate their inclusion in the community or empowerment for ministry?Share any insights you have in this simple forum, replying to this top post to share in the conversation. You will receive 5 points for sharing your thoughts.
Is this a distinction with which you are familiar?
This distinction between Deaf and hard of hearing was new to me in the sense of the Deaf being it's own cultural community versus hard of hearing living as a part of the hearing community. I visualized it more as a range from those who were only slightly hearing impaired to those with complete hearing loss, but that those with full hearing loss would likely need more assistance than those with lesser degrees of hearing loss. After reading about the Deaf community though, a strong cultural distinction with it's own language makes perfect sense! (I also hadn't realized the differences between ASL and other types of signing. I thought that one learned "sign language" if you learned to sign at all.)
Have you had any experience in ministry with either of these groups?
To my knowledge, all of my experience has been with people who had various degrees of hearing loss in either one or both ears, but I don't recall ever having met anyone from the Deaf community.
Have you learned any insights that facilitate their inclusion in the community or empowerment for ministry?
Oh yes, just being aware of the distinction between the Deaf and the hard of hearing is a big insight in itself that leads to different possibilities of supporting their inclusion! While I recognized that individuals with hearing impairments would not always have the same needs or requirements, I had not considered it on a more cultural level.
I took ASL classes in college, learned about Deaf culture, and met individuals within the Deaf community. I'm endlessly fascinated by their language and culture and the ways they share their lives together. It's awesome!
I don't recall having had the option of taking ASL classes when/where I first went to college, so that would have been a really neat opportunity. Not sure that I would have even thought to take an ASL class at the time though, even if it had been available.
My experience with the difference between the Deaf culture and those who are hard of hearing or late deafened is only with in the realms of my work as a home health nurse. Even then, it has been more with hard of hearing or late deafened more so than someone who is living the Deaf culture. When we identify someone with a need due to hearing loss, there are support groups and agencies that our social workers can assist with referring them, so that they might obtain any equipment needed or improve social connectivity and support.
In a ministry setting the only group I have encountered is the hard of hearing. Our church as a small (quarter-time), elderly rural family church where hearing has decreased in some due to aging, but we have no one that is a part of the Deaf culture.
I must admit that until I participated in this class it never occurred to me that sign language was anything other than just sign language. I was not aware that there was The American Sign Language.
I do recognize many ways that persons who become hard of hearing or that are a part of the Deaf culture can be empowered and included in community and ministry.
Familiar with distinction: I was familiar with the distinction, but it was nice to have it set out clearly and with so much detail.
Ministry with; As I child and in college there were a few people in my peer group who were hard of hearing. Several in the congregation I serve are hard of hearing. In worship, we amplify the sound from the pulpit, and this seems to make the service audible to the congregation who attend. At the beginning of service, I'll sometimes ask the congregation whether they can hear me; and, occasionally there is a request to turn up the volume.
In person to person conversation I try to speak distinctly at an audible speed and volume. I also try not to modify or exaggerate my voice, but rather to speak plainly and naturally, taking the care to enunciate that I should always take anyway. I've learned to be a peace with repeating myself. And, especially if a person is hard of hearing, I encourage him or her to ask me to repeat myself. Usually, a facial cue or gesture makes it clear they can't hear me. Facing the person and maintaining eye contact also helps communication generally.
Insights: It makes sense that a person who has sign language might not view himself or herself as disabled. The use of eyes and hands offers a broad range of expression. I think this is a good illustration of the way that people, who lack capabilities I might have, develop other capabilities which exceed mine and which I might miss if I'm not looking. The church might try to open ways that these capabilities can be shown and appreciated.
I was aware of deaf culture and have limited experience. The first is in finger spelling and learning to sign hymns in ASL. On the one hand it is a bridge to reach out to others and on the other it is a way to involve the whole body in prayer and praise for all of us. The other part of deaf culture I have experienced is in working with parents who are trying to decide if they want their child to have cochlear implants. It is a very interesting conversation with deep emotions attached! In the church, I think you have to approach the conversation in a posture of we are all created by God and that deafness is not necessarily a brokenness, nor an implant a miracle that fixes it. I worked with a college student who really struggled after her surgery. As in most things, I don't think the church necessarily has "right answers" but is available to "journey with" anyone.
I have lived with the deaf and hard of hearing and the deaf culture while attending the NC School for the blind and the deaf. Not until later in my working career did I have the opportunity to work with these two distinct different populations as a rehab. counselor. Making sure accommodations were properly used and available was sometimes challenging. For example scheduling an interpreter for appointments. You need to know that interpreters can only be used 30 min. at a time so sometimes you need more than one. They should wear solid dark colored shirts and be in a well lighted room. You may need to find an interpreter to sign in the deaf persons hand if they do not see. There are different levels of licensed interpreters depending on their skill level. Do not assume that all deaf people can read lips or know sign language. Just as we find out peoples name and addresses when they come in our church we also need to find out any special needs they have.
These are excellent Pat -- great tips for working with persons who are Deaf or hard of hearing in our congregations.