USA (MNN) — While the cheer and gatherings of the holidays are a welcome break for many, some find this time more difficult. For those in the Deaf community, the holidays amplify existing challenges.
Rob Myers of DOOR International explains how statistics show many people born deaf face challenges in communicating with their families already.
“What you may not realize is that 90% of Deaf people are born to parents who are hearing, which typically means that they don’t know any sign language. Of those parents, about 85% will never learn to sign with their deaf children,” Myers says.
“That means about 80% of Deaf people, even here in the U.S., have almost no language access when they’re at home. That’s hard for us to understand.”
This language deprivation is very problematic for the learning and development of children.
“We’re learning more and more that how essential it is for all children to have language access at an early age. Particularly for deaf kids, if they don’t have sign language access early on, it actually creates language deprivation for them,” Myers explains.
Since written language is sound-based, this deprivation can make learning to read difficult as well. Many children only begin to learn when they attend Deaf school. This makes the holidays away from friends, especially during the pandemic, especially difficult.
“If you think about sitting around a dinner table in the evening, [there’s] lots of talk and chatter going on. It’s hard for a Deaf kid to figure out who’s talking, much less what exactly they’re saying, so many times they’ll just sit and keep their head down and eat at the table and not bother to try to even follow the conversation because it’s just too difficult,” Myers says.
“When we think now of the holidays and COVID, most families have their kids at home. Kids are isolated from their friends. In the case of Deaf kids, even Deaf adults, that becomes really, really challenging over the holidays. We have to exert even extra effort to try to overcome some of those language barriers.”
Deaf people are excellent cross-cultural communicators, as they live in societies where the majority of people don’t speak their heart language.
Through gestures and writing, Deaf people are often able to communicate with those who don’t know their language. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has disrupted some of these coping mechanisms as well.
“Imagine having multiple people on a video call, and, thankfully, many of these video calls are beginning to offer captioning. However, that captioning can lag behind the actual video, and if Deaf people are struggling to keep up with the captioning, they don’t necessarily know who is saying what,” Myers says.
For this Christmas season, DOOR has several resources to help people connect with those in the Deaf community. Visit their website and Facebook page to learn basic signs related to Christmas and see the Christmas story in sign language.
“The more effort that people can make to begin to learn sign language, the more that draws Deaf people into a conversation, so even just learning a few basic signs is a is a real step toward showing the desire to connect with Deaf people,” Myers says.
You can also help by raising awareness. While many think of deafness only as a disability, it is also a minority language group. This means that there is a great need for translating the Bible into sign languages.
“Out of the over 350 sign languages around the world, only about 10% of them have the Christmas story translated in their own language. That means 90% of the sign languages that are out there don’t even have access to the Christmas story in their own heart language,” Myers says.
To learn more about how you can support and pray for this ministry, visit DOOR’s website here.
“We are so grateful for Jesus and for this incredible Gospel message. We’re looking forward to more and more Deaf people around the world also having access to it.”
Header image courtesy of Chad Madden via Unsplash