Deaf geographies, and other worlds.

A 10 year old explains Deaf geographies… But why does their teacher miss how important they are?

If you’ve not seen it… then go look NOW… this is the best, simplest, and coolest explanation of what Deaf Geographies are… ever.


The fact that a 10 year-old can explain what Deaf Geographies are (without, of course, mentioning that they are Deaf geographies, demonstrates how simple they are).

For example:

My Special Place

Being in a deaf world is my special place. When I’m at home or it’s the weekend, I’m in the deaf world. But when I’m at school or at a friend’s house, I have to swap worlds and go into the hearing world.

(Swapping worlds eh? Sounds pretty geographical to me).

I do get asked a lot of questions like ‘How do you speak to your mum?’ I say I use sign language, or they ask “What job does your mum have?”

I find sign language special. My sister set up a sign language club at her school and lots of people were very keen to learn a bit.

(So sign language is the default language in the ‘deaf world’)

If I hear something bang on the floor then I use my ears to find out where it’s coming from but for my parents, it’s different – they feel the vibrations of the banging to find out where it’s coming from.

(Here’s the core… the hearing world uses sound, and the Deaf world doesn’t. That’s it! In the Deaf world everything works just as it should, but from a slightly different starting point).

Lots of people think deaf people are very silent and quiet but they are still full of life and energy in their hands when they use BSL (British Sign Language).

(‘Lots of people think deaf people are very silent’… well, it depends what silence is. Understood from a deaf world (i.e. non-sound-based starting point) then silence has to judged visually… and Deaf people are far from visually silent)

I know people may think that my parents have never heard me speak but when I think about it, I don’t really mind because I live in a happy family and I know no better life and that’s why being in a deaf world is really special to me.

(Your parents have ‘heard’ you speak actually… with their eyes. Again, a different starting point.

The child’s teacher wrote in reply: Absolutely. I don’t believe that any of us can fully appreciate how special the deaf world is to you. You have written very sensitively and with lots of information. 2HP’s. Well done!!

Ah… this is the kicker. The teacher doesn’t get that the Deaf world isn’t just important to the child. The teacher completely misses the point that the Deaf world is special to all of us… it teaches us that there’s another way for the world to be. In fact, it suggests that there might be untold different ways to be. Ways that we ignore… forcing others into our expectation that they should be ‘just like us’ – which in the teacher’s case is, presumably, hearing.

In fact, this is an unthinking response. Because that ‘I don’t believe that…’ phrase is a lazy mistake. We can all appreciate how special the Deaf world is. And we must.

I wonder how things might have gone if, instead of ‘2HP’s’ (I’m guessing two House Points), the teacher had said “Wow, that’s fascinating, lets invite your parents in to teach the class about that deaf world… and let’s learn about it, and experience it for ourselves.”

Then that last quote might have changed to

Absolutely. I think your parents helped us to appreciate how special the deaf world is to you, and how important it is for us too. Your essay changed my life. Thank you!!

One comment on “A 10 year old explains Deaf geographies… But why does their teacher miss how important they are?

  1. markbutterworth
    September 1, 2014

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This entry was posted on September 1, 2014 by in Musings.
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