LENDING A HELPING HAND

by Ms. Ayako Tabusa

[Clap] You could hear that sound, couldn't you? I could also hear it. However, to tell the truth, I am hearing impaired in my left ear so everything I hear is by using only my right ear. I sometimes wonder what would happen to me if I lost my hearing in both ears. It's difficult to imagine such a world of complete silence. However, I'm able to cope in my world of partial hearing, and I think I would be able to cope even in a silent world with the help of the others.

I clapped my hands at the beginning of this speech, and we were able to hear the sound. However, for people who have completely lost their hearing, it could be serious if the sound were not a simple clap, but a horn, a siren, or a bell. In an emergency, they would need us to lend them a helping hand, sometimes by actually leading them to a safe place. Another way you can help is, if they are in trouble, ask them, "What's wrong?" using paper and a pen. Our little ways of showing that we care are crucial for them in order to survive in this world.

In my case, when I'm talking with my friends, since it's difficult for me to catch what they are saying, I often say, "Pardon me?" Alhough it's not an emergency, my friends are very considerate. Even before we start talking, when they remember I am hearing impaired, they ask me, "Can you hear me on this side?" It may seem like a small gesture, but it's really helpful for me and I'm grateful.

If such a small act is so considerate to me, it must be even more helpful for deaf people when someone extends a helping hand because there are so many difficult circumstances for them in this hearing world. You may hardly ever face a situation in which a deaf person needs your help, but, because there are 358,000 people in Japan alone who are hearing impaired, you could face the situation tomorrow. If they communicated with you by paper and pen, you would probably understand. However, if they talked to you using this sign [show sign for "excuse me"], could you understand and answer them? Actually, you might wince. However, this is a common expression in daily life: "Excuse me," and you wouldn't wince if a person said it out loud. Why not? Because you could hear the person's voice and understand what it meant.

Sign language is not really a foreign language. You could actually think of it as a dialect of Japanese. Even people who haven't studied English can understand, "Thank you." However, why can't we understand this sign? [Show the sign for "arigatou."] It's no different from "arigatou."

You may think signing is complicated. Actually it's not. Most signing expresses things around us clearly and it's not that difficult to get the meaning. For example, "book" is expressed like this [show the sign for "book"], and "cry" is expressed like this [show the sign for "cry"]. So, how about this sign? [Show the sign for "Think."]. You can probably guess what it means. If you guessed "think," you were right. In this way, you can see that sign language is not so difficult because it is visible language. The hand movements are connected to things around us.

Even if you aren't familiar with or interested in sign language, please try to listen to the needs of the hearing impaired. They may ask you to do something such as help them make a telephone call. It may seem like a small gesture, but it's actually a great help. Please lend them a helping hand. Whether you use sign language or not, you can be the bridge between their silent world and your world of hearing

Thank you [showing the sign for "thank you"].


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