The Shocking Truth About ASL

Have you heard some things about ASL and Deaf people, but were too afraid to actually ask if they were true?

Now's your chance!

There are many questions that Deaf are asked every day.  Some are funny, some are not so funny.  I will address both.  Bonus:  If you have your own question you can 1) leave it in the comments or 2) if you're self-conscious you can send me a note via my contact page.


Can Deaf People Drive?

Tweet: Can Deaf people drive?

Short answer: Yes.

Snarky answer: Duh. They're not blind (no offense to the Blind), so of course they can drive.  This should be included in the post, 13 Things to Never Say to a Deaf Person.

Fun answer: The Deaf drive in a different way than the hearing.  They do drive with their feet and hands, I don't mean different in that way.

When you're driving in a car with a passenger or two, do you talk to each other?

Of course.  So do Deafies.  They sign.  So they have a couple of tricks.  I'll be honest, it's a little bit scary as a hearing person being in the car with them the first few times.

Trick #1

They use their peripherals to drive and chat.  They turn a bit in their seat, so they're angled towards the passenger.  They watch the road with one eye and then watch the passenger(s) with their other eye.

Trick #2

They will drive with their knees and chat with their passenger(s), only to grab the wheel when they need to.

In both instances it's up to the passengers to alert the driver of the goings on in the road.  Driving is a team effort!

You have got to watch this video of the CODA brothers on driving.  It's hilarious.  You also might pick up on some signs as you watch.  Don't worry, if you don't know ASL, you can still watch it. They speak and sign so everyone can have fun.



What About Music....?

Tweet: Can Deaf people listen to music?

Short answer: Well... sure.

Snarky answer: I don't have one really.

Long answer:  When you say someone is Deaf, they aren't all at the same level of Deafness.  Just like people with glasses: they don't all have the same prescription. So it goes with Deaf.  Their level of hearing loss varies person to person and tone to tone.

Some Deaf have some hearing that they can make out some of the music.

However, all Deaf people, from Deaf-Deaf (like there's not a sound in the world they could hear) to Hard of Hearing and in between can enjoy music.

Have you seen Mr Holland's Opus?  It's a good one.  Mr Holland's son would sit on the speakers to feel the vibrations.  He also would listen to the vibrations while he was fixing cars.  Pretty nifty, eh?

There are so  many songs out there that people say, I have no idea what the words are, I just love the beat.  Well, there you go.  The beat can be the best part!

I worked at a Residential School for the Deaf and Blind years back (pretty dang awesome experience) and one of the counselors I worked with was Deaf and he had the sweetest car. Look at the first question if you're surprised he had a car (and that it was still in one piece).  He would pull into the parking lot and the whole lot would vibrate.  His sound system was incredibly loud and he had all those special speakers and sub woofers and whatever else you use.   Holy smoke!  He would open his door and it'd fry those little hairs in your ears.   Deaf people have some of the best sound systems in their vehicles.

Songs in ASL -- that's a different beast.  A lot of hearing people (myself included) sign songs.  You sign songs often when you're interpreting.  Now some people do it to perform. That's cool, so long as you know what you're doing.  I think in these instances it is mostly for hearing people.  It truly is beautiful to watch and can bring so much more meaning to the songs for those just used to listening with your ears.

I think it's a controversial topic with some Deaf about whether they like them or not.  Some like them and do them themselves, and some do not.  I think a lot depends on their feelings towards hearing people and their thoughts on the hearing world trying to butt in on them.  I can see both points.  I love signing songs in ASL, mostly for the brain exercise it is for me to translate it into something that's meaningful and not a word-for-word translation.

Wait -- did I just say some Deaf people sign the songs themselves?  Yes, yes I did.

They can do it with the music several ways:

  • vibrations (as discussed before)
  • with some hearing
  • closed captioning or a YouTube video with the verses going in time with the words (like the bouncing ball)
  • cued from someone with more hearing than them

They can also do it without the music and just sign it.  Poetry.  So beautiful.

If you search YouTube you'll find tons of videos of people that barely know ASL signing some song and I just cringe.  They sign everything so literal -- straight from a sign dictionary -- with no real thought into it.

There are a couple people on YouTube that I think do a really good job.


I'd love to hear your opinion on ASL songs - yay or nay?

If you liked this post consider sending out a Tweet: I found out two shocking truths about ASL

I have more ASL questions I'll be answering for y'all!