December and Christmas can be a fun time for a lot of people – meeting up with family and friends, going to various parties and dinners, giving and receiving presents, that whole enchilada. But when you’re conscious that they can also enhance the feelings of exclusion and isolation, all the festive fun disappears.
Growing up, Christmas was that one time of year that Sarah and I always looked forward to. We loved getting together with family and experiencing the magic and happiness of the holiday. However, for the last few years, it is not what it used to be. You could say it is because we are no longer children and that the magical innocence of Christmas is confined to the past, but I believe that over half of it now comes down to Sarah’s deafness. Whenever we meet up with family, everyone is talking and although my father and I are signing away to keep Sarah included, she is ignored. Or, when they do remember she is there, they talk through us instead of directly to her!
At times like that, I want to scream. I want to shout at them and make them see that they’re being rude and discriminatory. But with my extended family, voicing opinions means ensuing arguments and that happens to be a fine line that both Sarah and I do not want to risk crossing.
We don’t have the greatest relationships with one of my grandmothers as it is and I know that if we speak our minds, those words will travel round the rest of the family and it will cost us.
As it is, Sarah is spending this Christmas with her boyfriend’s family but it still makes me sad and angry that full inclusion will never occur, no matter how hard we do try to bring some awareness into the festivities.
So if you find yourself in a similar situation this Christmas, what can do you do to ensure no one feels isolated or excluded from the festivities?
1. Talk to them not through them – whether that be through Sign Language, gestures, spoken language, or note writing. Don’t say ‘oh can you tell them this?’ because that is just rude.
2. Keep eye contact. Let them see your face when talking. You can’t lip-read the back of a head!
3. Slow down your conversation so it is easier to follow – both for whoever is d/Deaf and the who the interpreter may be if there is signing. I know It is hard enough for me to hear everything that is going on and what to interpret when my family start conversing quickly, so if I’m struggling, it is more than likely that Sarah will be completely lost!
4. If they sign, ask them some basic signs. It will help you as well as helping them to communicate.
5. If someone asks you to repeat, don’t say “oh you’ve missed it now, it’s not important.” Repeat it. Let them know where the conversation is going and help them to catch up.
6. Give them a space to join in the conversation and share what they have to say.
7. If someone wants to leave the conversation and have a few moments to themselves, let them. Don’t force them to stay. Trying to keep up and focus on a conversation is tiring and overwhelming, so when it gets to much, it is best to leave and come back later.
A lot of this comes down to common sense and not being rude. Everyone wants to be able to join in the Christmas festivities so give them that chance!
That is it for me for this post.
Thanks for reading, have a Merry Christmas, and have a brazzle dazzle day!