Through Deaf Eyes: review

Well I finally got to see Through Deaf Eyes this morning (actually half last night and half this morning; it’s been a busy few days). I thoroughly enjoyed watching this. I should note that my perspective on this is as an orally educated deaf person; I have been largely ignorant of deaf culture and history until now.

While I knew the general outlines of the history presented, there were still many details I didn’t know. And I was fascinated by the glimpses offered into that past, especially through the NAD movies made about a hundred years ago (which are, by the way, found in the archives at Gallaudet, to which I’ve linked on the right sidebar). Watching this made me feel like a kid with her nose pressed up against the window to the candy store. It’s a whole other world there.

As for the oral versus deaf educational models presented, it fascinated me to see the bits of deaf schooling, from the small children being filmed looking a little lost, to the woman discussing the differences she saw in signing between black students and white students and how she tried to conform to the “white” model when she went to an integrated school, to all the memories shared by the different people they interviewed. When they showed the oral education clips, I had to laugh. While I didn’t go to an oral deaf school (I was simply mainstreamed into the local public schools) I certainly had much of that damned speech therapy, which is as useless as it looked on the screen! Would it look that way to hearing people or would they see that as what “should” be done? Would they look at that little girl being asked to repeat “airplane” said from behind that piece of paper, and think that was a dirty trick to play on her? I hated it with a passion when my speech therapists would cover up their mouths. I liked how one of the interviewees made it clear how it was such a waste of time — “I could have been learning other things, real things!”

The information on Stokoe also interested me. I had not realized the extent to which his work was pooh-poohed at Gallaudet…that blew me away. I thought he had to work at convincing the hearing world that ASL was a bona fide language, but it turned out he had to convince everyone. I also loved seeing the snippets from the NTD productions, I had no idea. Plus the technical institute and the development of the TTY…all new information to me. Plus, seeing it in the clips and such is much more immediate. The clips from the DPN — wow, what energy! And I was floored at how Zinser apparently did not know any sign language, or at any rate showed no attempts at signing in the clips I saw — having an interpreter present at all times. It didn’t surprise me as much that Gallaudet had hearing presidents in the past; I’m very well aware that hearing people patronize deaf people all the time. But that they wouldn’t sign blew me away. I also found IKJ’s comments interesting, given that the very first time I heard of him was in the October 2006 protests!

I thought the presentations of both Bell and Veditz were a perfect balance of destruction and construction; the one sought to tear down the deaf world, the other constructed it, preserved it an din the end showed us how indestructible it all was. I would have liked to see more specific information about Milan especially how deaf educators were excluded from the discussions and votes.

The present day segments on the various different people, representing different “kinds” of deaf people and their thoughts, I loved that. We are a very large and very diverse group, but in the end, all of us are deaf and all of the people interviewed came back around to that. (Yes, I thought it was very strange that the one boy with the two parents where only the mother signed once in a while and the parents talked mostly, despite knowing how to sign; I got the impression the production had everyone who could speak, speak which makes it difficult to sign at the same time I suppose. I think it would have been more effective to have had them speak at times and sign at others, more of what the mother did, I think.)

The people who discussed their cochlear implants confirmed to me a parallel I’ve made in my mind: CI’s are just today’s modern hearing aids (albeit destructive hearing aids). HA did not drive children away from sign language and deaf culture, and CI will not either. As I’ve said, deaf is deaf, and even the most clueless, orally functioning deaf like myself will eventually realize that. It was a trip to see Gina Oliva of Alone in the Mainstream several times and her DEAF WOW comment is absolutely spot on.

One thing about this movie overall for me — I kept watching all the signing and picking up what I could. It just glued me to the screen picking out what they were signing along with the captions. I’m at the point where I see that the captions for the signing have the same issues as captions for the speaking: things are rephrased and shortened up and so on in both! I can see I’m going to watch this again and again until I understand all the signing πŸ™‚ This movie captured me from the start and didn’t let me go. It may be that for the Deaf, much of this was old hat, and they wanted to see other things, and it may be that for hearing people, it’s long winded and not of that much interest unless they happen to know deaf people, but for people like me, it’s a wonderful tidbit of a world I’m learning about day by day.

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11 Responses to Through Deaf Eyes: review

  1. Ken Rose says:

    “It may be that for the Deaf, much of this was old hat, and they wanted to see other things, and it may be that for hearing people.”

    Unfortunately, I think very few Hearing people saw this film, though a large part of the Deaf Community did. Hearies, in large part, have no knowledge of Deaf Culture or Deaf History whatsoever. (I know I didn’t! And I was totally floored when I learned about it!)

    Deaf people complained about, “It didn’t show this! It emphasised too much of that!” But you have to take the film for what it was meant to do. It was a film BY Hearies to explain to other Hearies Deaf Culture and Deaf History. And for what it did in two hours, I doubt anyone could do any better.

    To explain every nuance of Deaf Culture and Deaf History would take WAY more than two hours. Maybe a mini-series. Maybe a weekly series.

    But there are things about Deaf History that are NEVER presented in the Media (at least before “Through Deaf Eyes”). That Hearing parents of Deaf are routinely told signing will inhibit their child’s ability to learn English. (Which is patently, demonstrably FALSE! See Amy Cohen Efron’s Vlog “The Greatest Irony.”) And physical PUNISHMENT of Deaf Children for signing. (Are you going to punish birds for chirping or fish for swimming???)

    Of course, one of the worst Deaf Myths is about people being “TRAPPED” in the Deaf Community. Hearing parents of Deaf are TERRIFIED by this. If your child learns Sign, they will become One of “THEM!” forever trapped and doomed.

    Why not look upon the Deaf Community as a hundreds of thousands-strong SUPPORT GROUP for your child??? Why would you DEPRIVE them the ability to CONNECT with countless others who have experienced life the same way they have and can offer solutions from the INSIDE on how to deal with being Deaf in a Hearing World???

  2. Wow, wow, what can I say?

    I am impressed with you. You’re a rarity. Most oralists are absolutely hopeless, clueless, victimized, ignorant, and stubborn.

    Before I go further, I’d like to say that I’m an culturally Deaf person, and my primary mode of communication is ASL. I also am a former ASL professor.

    There was a time when I was a child, I didn’t believe in ASL, and was in your position, more or less. I didn’t learn ASL until I was 16, and today I sign in ASL fluently to the point that most people mistake me for a son of Deaf parents.

    These days, I am married to a Deaf woman, and am a father to a Deaf son. And, our identity as Deaf people are so important to us, that we literally pulled our roots and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana to provide the best education possible for our son. (To attend Indiana School for the Deaf, one of the most Deaf-Friendly schools in the United States due to its bi-lingual and bi-cultural philosophy. This means all the teachers are required to teach in ASL with an emphasis on reading and writing. The result is a well educated cultured Deaf person.)

    So, I can identify with what you said, realizing that there is so much more than what was presented to you. I would strongly encourage you to follow through and try to make more ASL Deaf friends- trust me, their wealth of knowledge will be very valuable to your growth as a Deaf person.

    If you’re interested in seeing more ASL, I would strongly recommend going to and type in “ASL” or “Deaf” as a search string. There are many good videos provided.

    As an instance, I have my own “channel”, and you’re welcome to check it out. It is my hope that you’ll take the time to learn ASL and to have your world opened up.

    You might be interested in this also, this is an article about Audism. I think it would apply to your situation, as unfortunately, you’re a victim of that– all Deaf people are.

    I would also strongly recommend a book:

    “Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood”
    By Dr. Paddy Ladd

    ISBN #: 1-85359-545-4

    If you are truly serious about learning ASL and about Deaf culture, you are most welcome to e-mail me. I’ll be happy to help you in your journey to Deafhood.

    Best wishes in what you do,
    Erick Ketcham

  3. Ken: Yes I suspect very few hearies actually saw the show. Why should they? The issues aren’t that much of interest to them. If there are 300,000 profoundly (or more) deaf people in this country of 300 million people, that’s what, one for every thousand? Eeek. Still the movie is now out there, and added to a growing collection of stuff… And yes, the stuff about not learning English? Oh please…teach your child, hearing or deaf, a love of READING and that will take care of the rest. I think the separation of deaf children (so they don’t learn sign!!) is just cruel and misguided…

    Erick: Hey! I am very stubborn! πŸ™‚
    Thank you for your recommendations…In search of Deafhood is definitely on my reading list. I’m working my way through a wonderful series of books (the present one is Rethinking the Education of Deaf Students, which I got off Barb DiGi’s vlogging about BiBi education) and will get to that one for sure!
    One reason I use the phrase “orally educated” is that “oralist” seems to me to imply support for that method of teaching deaf children. I had no choice in my education, and in retrospect even though I was quite successful (measured in academic terms) I would not recommend it at all πŸ˜›

  4. Zoee Nuage says:

    That’s a wonderful review!! Even though i knew most of the stuff that I saw in the documentary, it still was surreal, especially the old clips of people/children from the past!

    I just saw that the movie is now off google video πŸ™ I forgot to download it, did you by any chance?

  5. IamMine says:

    Wow, BEG – that was a well-written review!

    I wish you’d do this in vlog, too. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰

    But anyway – yes, we have a lot of work to do.

    We are starting to see known leaders in the open!

    Like Aidan Mack, Joey Bauer and others that we can look up to as role models. Those people live in the hearing world and are successful Deaf people that can be shown to hearing parents of deaf children! πŸ™‚

    We’re finally here where we have the power to unite and work together in an effort to reach every deaf/hoh child! πŸ™‚

  6. Hello BEG,


    Congratulations for being the winner for DeafRead’s “Through Deaf Eyes” contest as the best blog entry!

    Please contact me as soon as possible (via email provided).

    Amy Cohen Efron
    DeafRead’s Human Editor

  7. todos la vie says:

    I just read your review and your other postings. I am learning a little bit more about the diversity of deafread contributors. Thanks for participating and making me more aware, and I look forward to reading more about your perceptions on life. When you share your journey with the world, I also benefit.

    By the way, I also have brown eyes. πŸ™‚

  8. Congratulations on the win! You really put together an interesting and well-thought out blog entry.

    I think some people are underestimating the interest of the show to hearing people, though. Yes, I’m a hearie and I’m extra-interested in the show because of a Deaf person in my life; but even before meeting him, I watched many PBS shows.

    I mean, that’s the reason you watch PBS: to learn things about which you don’t know anything–to broaden your mind. πŸ™‚

  9. janetara says:

    I watched this documentary as part of an Introductory Class to ASL that I took for my degree in Speech-Language Pathology . Our professor is a Deaf women who is extremely active in the Deaf community and who does more in a day that I could in a week! She is an amazing woman. During the first half of the term, she taught us about Deaf culture with an interpreter. During the second half of the term, we learned basic sign- without the interpreter. It was a great class and I hope to be able to become more proficient in ASL. I think it’s something that speech pathologists and audiologists really need to know.
    I thought this film was great. It covered so much of Deaf people’s history and it is a great starting place for anyone interested in the topic. The testimonials and interviews were great and it was excellent to see things from that perspective. I wish that the movie could somehow get more exposure and be seen by the public because it was so well done and so informative.