A local organization is breaking down communication barriers between the world of the hearing and the deaf.
It’s called a living language.
“It’s a very conceptual language. It’s a very visual language. It’s not a written language,” said Steve Evans, Open Hands Deaf Services president.
Sign language changes over time and includes different regional dialects. With 400 different types across the world. Americans use American Sign Language-ASL. It’s not just English of the hands, ASL has its own grammar and structure. Interpreting takes time.
“When you have a language barrier that’s why deaf really need interpreters in the community,” Evans said.
That’s where Steve Evans and his family comes in to help. He and his wife got into deaf ministry more than a decade ago.
“The more that I learned sign language and the more I got involved in the community the more the love for the deaf really grew,” Evans said.
About a year ago they started the non-profit Open Hands Deaf Services to assist and advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing in Northwest Louisiana.
“The deaf kind of get pushed to the side. It’s sad because there’s nothing to be afraid of. There’s nothing that you should feel you have to handicap them. They’re people just like we are,” Evans said.
He said the deaf and hard of hearing are often not taught the same things hearing people are growing up.
“A lot them are not taught how to drive. Or they are not taught budgeting skills. Or some of the basic things you think of. Parenting skills. Some of those things are lost sometimes for lack of a better term, they’re discriminated against,” Evans said.
So Open Hands hosts life skills training classes to fill in the gaps.
“I would tell people that deaf people are not all the same. So don’t misunderstand that. Every deaf person has skills and is special in their own way,” said Cody Campbell, Open Hands Deaf Services participant.
Cody Campbell signs in ASL but can write English which he says many deaf are not taught. He and his wife Melissa attend classes at Open Hands.
“Don’t be afraid to approach to a deaf person and communicate with them. Deaf people love to communicate with people,” Campbell said.
Open Hands Deaf Service also works with children of deaf adults through their ‘CODA’ program. Several of members including Cody and his wife have children who are not deaf but experience deaf culture at home which can impact their language and social skills at school.
“They’re kind of caught between two cultures. Between the hearing world and the deaf world,” Evans said.
For all that deaf people cannot hear they’re more in tuned with communicating than hearing people can be. They examine your facial expressions and body language. And if you don’t know how to say something.
“If you start with your ABCs’ and at the end of the day if you can spell it you can probably get it through. If you show an interest in learning sign language, they’re going to help you through it,” Evans said.