- Ernest Richards
My Story (by Torii Deaner)
Updated: Apr 4, 2022
We want to let the Deaf speak for themselves, with their own voice, as we ask our Deaf friends to share their own unique perspectives and personal stories on signstolife.
This first story is that of Torii Deaner, a remarkable Deaf woman who attends Living Word Deaf Church with us in Lynchburg. You'll see she has been through, and has overcome, A LOT.
Torii has given me complete liberty to edit what she wrote, but I would rather let her speak for herself in her own words.
I'm not touchin' it.
No reason to.
Torii happens to be a very intelligent lady, and a good writer.
Keep in mind with any Deaf contributors that English is a SECOND language for them.
The rest is Torii:
I was born hearing, but I contracted spinal meningitis when I was about 8 months old. As a result I became profoundly deaf.
I’m the baby and the only one who is Deaf in my family. My dad was a single father of three children and when he first learned that I lost my hearing, he was so devastated. Thankfully God gave him the strength to raise three of us until he met my stepmother and gained stepsister. All my dad wanted is to communicate with me so my parent decided to take a sign language class when I was 3 or 4 years old. I remember watching his first sign language performance and it was “What’s Love Got to Do with It” which is his favorite song and people were in awe of his performance!
Even though my whole family never became proficient or fluent in American sign language - more like our own home sign language. But I am still so grateful for them to try to communicate with me because most hearing parents don’t bother learning sign language to communicate with their Deaf or Hard of Hearing child(ren). My current boyfriend who works at a Deaf school and he has to deal with many deaf and hard of hearing students, they do not know any language. Still today. It’s sad.
Anyway, I was mainstreamed for 11 years ["mainstreaming" means putting a Deaf child through the regular public school system].
There was lack of resources in an elementary school such as interpreting service and they did not understand that English is not my primary language. I had to take a speech therapy, put me in a special ed classes with disabled students and the result is language deprivation which mean I did not have full access to a natural language. So I was severely delayed with reading and writing skills until I enrolled into a middle school when I was in 6th grade and met my former interpreter/teacher and she was an amazing woman! Not only that I was also her first student. She interpreted for me in the regular classes, she even worked with me in her little office to improve my writing and reading skills every single day, made me take the summer school with her twice and so many things that she had to push me.
Of course, I was bullied by hearing students and difficult to interact with them. I tried out for cheerleading twice but I did not make it. I played softball for several years but I was always an outfielder. In my last year of middle school, my former interpreter highly recommended to my dad that I should go to a Deaf school in Washington DC because she strongly believed that American Sign Language (ASL) will benefit me so much. As you know my dad was very overprotective and never entered his thought that I’d be the first person to leave the family at age 13 but he knew it was the best for me.
I always admire hearing people who are eager to learn ASL. It’s just that they need to understand my needs that I always deal with hearing people every day. Hanging out with Deaf people is like refuel me.
When I enrolled into Model Secondary School for the Deaf and it was definitely a Deaf culture shock! I stayed there for a year then I transferred to Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind until I graduated. I picked up my ASL skills, participated many activities, sports, be with my Deaf mentors, and socialize with many awesome Deaf friends. That social life... I was like ahh finally I am free! I longer felt alone and no more communication barrier with any hearing kids. I just fell in love with my Deaf world ever since then.
After I graduated high school, I attended the community college because of cheap tuition cost and be closer to my family too.
Unfortunately, that’s my biggest regret is that I never got a chance to go to a deaf college. I could have gone to National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, NY or Gallaudet University in Washington DC. I could have a different life but that was my journey. At least I earned two associate degrees - Computer Aided Drafting and Design and 3D Solid Modeling Specialization. I had my first full time job as a Mechanical Drafter/Designer in Lynchburg, VA and worked there for almost 9 years. I felt like I need more experience to enhance my future in this career so I decided to apply for another job. I applied to Sumitomo Drive Technologies and thankfully, they hired me just like that. Better pay, friendly hearing colleagues, provided me with a lot of trainings which is exactly what I needed and been working there for 6 years now. Where did the time go?!
I have been working with hearing colleagues for 15 years and I can assure you that it’s not always easy for me being around hearing people daily for 8-10 hours. We do communicate via basic sign language, e-mails, chat online, lip-reading, and gestures. I can get tired when I had to read my email over and over so I can understand better before I reply back to the customer or my teammate or boss, all because English is my second language. It’s just exhausting sometimes. I know what hearing and Deaf worlds are like but they don’t know what Deaf world is like. I just envy my boyfriend and Deaf employees who are working at a Deaf school and there is zero communication barrier. I never like to offend any hearing person for not wanting to hang out with them. I just rather to socialize with Deaf people and hearing people who are fluently with ASL but... I always admire hearing people who are eager to learn ASL. It’s just that they need to understand my needs that I always deal with hearing people everyday. Hanging out with Deaf people is like refuel me. Every time I visit my family in Lynchburg, I could hardly wait to visit my Deaf church and chat for hours. Or when the weekend gets here, there’s Deaf events I couldn’t wait to attend.
Anyway, I think the whole point is language deprivation. Every hearing parents should learn ASL. They cannot rely on cochlear implant, speech therapy, etc to “fix” their child(ren) to be like hearing kid. Every hearing person should learn ASL so they could communicate with Deaf people at the restaurants, grocery stores, clothing stores, etc. Every public school should provide a qualified interpreter or send off to a Deaf school. I support Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K) all the way. All age from 0 thru 5 years old kids should access both ASL and English. For my experience, I attended the Deaf schools and I picked up my reading and writing skills because of ASL and English at the same time and it worked for me.
I hope you are considering to learn ASL.