All students who study at Miriam College know how to do sign language, and yet when I was there, I remember that we were mean to the deaf students who studied at SAID (Southeast Asian Institute for the Deaf ), a special school under Miriam.
I was in grade school back then, and we had busmates who were deaf. We hated being seated next to them and felt they had “germs”, even if there was really nothing wrong with them. Some of our deaf busmates also made some sounds whenever they would sign to each other. They weren’t words but like grunts. When we heard them do this, we’d mimic them and laugh. I don’t know if our deaf busmates realized that our mean sniggers were for them.
Yet, when we would go into our classrooms, we, the “normal” students, who could talk all day, would use sign language so that we can make chismis to a classmate across the room, and we were able to do this even when a teacher was giving a lecture. Sign language was the lifeblood of a bored student.
Sign language was something that we learned from those deaf students. They didn’t teach it to us directly, but still, someone must have passed it on. So in this way, we benefited from a part of their lives, and yet all they got from us was avoidance or mockery. We were young, yes. We didn’t know better, yes. But I wish we knew that it was wrong.
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