SAN ANTONIO – Although Deaf Awareness Month is coming to a close, the goal to spread awareness and create spaces for the deaf or hard-of-hearing continues.
According to the National Association of the Deaf, hard-of-hearing indicates a person with mild-to-moderate hearing loss.
It defines a (D)deaf person as someone with total or partial hearing loss.
Emma Faye Rudkin, founder of the nonprofit, Aid the Silent, is deaf. Rudkin has made it her life’s mission to advocate for create spaces for the deaf and hard of hearing community through her nonprofit.
Deaf Awareness Month, Rudkin said, is a time to celebrate deaf culture, which she said is not just about translating a language.
“(It’s about) the sign language and the fine behaviors behind the culture,” Rudkin said. “It really is its own (culture). There’s nothing like it in the whole world. (It is) the only language (that’s) expressive and visual. And also, I would say the deaf community, they don’t view themselves with a disability. It’s more so a culture.”
Although Rudkin is now proud of her hearing aids and encourages others to #ShowYourAids, she admits it wasn’t always easy growing up in what she describes as two different worlds: deaf culture and the hearing world.
“Growing up, you don’t see other people with hearing loss,” Rudkin said. “I think I (knew) maybe two kids with hearing loss growing up.”
It can even be isolating in the person’s own home with their family.
“A lot of the teenagers (with hearing loss or deaf) have severe depression, anxiety,” Rudkin said. “They go to school and they learn ASL through the regional day-school programs for the deaf, but it is normal that mom and dad don’t understand sign language. But (for) the teenagers, that’s their full language of understanding and communicating, so they feel not seen.”
When it comes to including a hard-of-hearing or deaf person at a gala, conference, meeting or any social setting, Rudkin advises organizers to not assume the needs of the person or group they are inviting.
“Always ask ahead of time to not waste your resources and also to make sure it fits what they need. So, let them be the experts of what they need and don’t assume,” she said.
Whether one can sign or not, Rudkin said there is a way to help bridge the gap and build community.
“Don’t let fear lead you,” Rudkin said in reference to mask mandates. “Be kind (and) take the time to (community by) writ(ing) it down.”
Deaf Awareness Month is celebrated in September.
To learn more about Aid the Silent, click here.