Check out Brittany in her American Sign Language Music Video just below!
I have a speech disability and hearing loss in in one ear. Because I can’t talk, I have been using sign language to communicate with my family since the age of two.
Throughout elementary and middle school I struggled with the limitations of my disabilities, but I have also found different ways to communicate and overcome many obstacles. For example, a difficulty was when kids would tease me or bully me in school. As painful as that was, I refused to be silent. I always told the teachers or my parents what was happening and managed to have good friends at school.
I have been mainstreamed in school my whole life, and my peers did not know sign language. Since I started high school, my old friends began to change and became distant from me. High school has been a very painful experience in many ways because of isolation and depression. I often asked my mom if I could be home-schooled because it was so hard. But the pain of high school has led me to in the past four years to get involved in the world of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people where sign language communication has been easier for me. I took American Sign Language classes at College of Marin where I became a teacher’s aide. Later I went to a camp at Gallaudet University, and I was also a counselor at a Lyons Club camp for Deaf kids one summer. What I realized from these experiences is that I feel the most comfortable with hearing or hard-of-hearing people who know sign language like me. I don’t identify as well with the Deaf community who have their own culture and cultural norms. In many ways I feel I am living between two worlds, the non-signing and hearing world, and the signing Deaf worlds. This is not an easy place to be.
An example living between two worlds is that sometimes it’s embarrassing when I use sign language if I am out at a restaurant or when I meet new people. They assume I am Deaf, and I feel misunderstood. On the other hand, I am not fully comfortable communicating with Deaf people because the way I like to communicate is with my voice and sign language at the same time, and most Deaf people just use sign language. Because I can hear, I also rely on listening to people speaking. If a deaf person signs really fast and they don’t use their voice, it’s hard for me to understand them.
But on a positive note, I have some advantages because I can communicate in two languages and be part of both the Deaf and hearing world. In many ways I am able to relate to people from two worlds. I have had some amazing opportunities like making a music video with a Deaf performer, and meeting Deaf celebrities like Marlee Maltin, Sean Berdy and Sean Forbes. I think when I could not communicate with hearing people at school I became a very good observer and listener. I have learned to listen to other peoples’ ideas and opinions. I notice that because I am such a good observer I remember things very well. I am also a visual person and use my eyes all the time. When I remember things, I see pictures more than remembering the words.
I am continuing to search for better ways to communicate and make friends who are like me. I would like to find a community of people who can sign and talk. In choosing a college or university I am hoping to find a signing community. My goals in college are to study fashion and marketing and continue to play soccer, but I also hope to find a place in the college community where I feel like I fit in.