Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What Texting Means to the Deaf

Did you know that the Deaf community were some of the first to use texting?

I began loosing my hearing when I was 4, and it gradually degraded until I was about 7 and it stabilized at its current level. This means there were a few years in there when my parents did teach me the proper etiquette of answering the phone. That didn't last for long, however, and although we gave TTY technology and specially amplified phones a try, they were bulky, difficult and intimidating for my friends to use, and nearly impossible to move (meaning if I was at someone else's house, I couldn't call my parents). And cell phones have never been super accessible.

When I was about ten, I attended a relative's wedding and we happened to be seated at a table with a deaf couple. They were extremely nice people, and at one point in the conversation, they pulled out these little devices (they looked like pagers with keyboards) and showed me how they could type messages to each other. I was enchanted. I wanted one. It would solve all my problems!

However there were two problems. #1, the devices were pretty pricey. #2, you could only message someone else who had a device, which  meant that we'd have to get one for my parents too, and it wouldn't be any good in contacting friends, siblings, grandparents, etc.

So that kind of didn't happen.

However, by the time I hit college, texting technology existed and most phones were capable of it, even if it wasn't yet widely used. My parents at first weren't keen on the expense, but they quickly realized how useful it was for me and I was allowed to use text messages sparingly as needed.

It was life changing. Outside of the internet and subtitled movies, it's probably one of the best inventions for deaf people of the past 20 years. Not only did it open so many doors for me and make my life a ton easier, it also meant that for the first time ever, my preferred method of communication wasn't just available for everyone, it was very soon cool, and then the norm!

In fact, even my very non-technologically interested uncle completely understood how texting was absolutely necessary for me to survive in the world of 21st century communications (and I definitely could have used it back in the 20th century too!)

What's funny is that I'm not a texting fanatic. I much prefer conversations in person, or at least online where I have a full keyboard and my fingers can (almost!) keep up with my thoughts. I'm not sure if that's just the way I am, or because texting has always been a valuable tool for me just to make my life run smoothly. I don't think of it as a recreational or social thing - I think of it as a survival necessity, and in my case, that's not a dramatic teenager exaggeration. It's the truth.

1 comment:

Matthew Bowman said...

I've had a similar reaction. I'm not deaf enough to wear the label, but it's come in handy in key situations. It's far from my preference, since I depend so much on emotional cues; while I can glean something similar from word choice alone, that's WORK.