No one was allowed to use their voice or any audio alerts or input for a whole week. For our Deaf CITs, that was easy, but for our hearing CITs, it was a new experience. They’ve been in the Deaf community for years, but living one week using only sign language and visual communication 24/7 reaped many benefits for all.
DOOR’s Deaf and hearing CITs communicate with each other in sign languages all the time, but it’s usually in a work environment, with the added stress of multiple goals and deadlines. Communicating with each other in the beauty of God’s creation, when work responsibilities were replaced with creative and fun team activities, provided opportunities for new linguistic, cultural, and relational learning and growth.
Our hearing CITs are always looking to advance their linguistic prowess in sign languages, and this was a rich opportunity. One game using blocks challenged their ability to use classifiers, a complex part of sign languages that represents shape, size, and relative location of items in three-dimensional space. This was an intensive week with strategically planned activities, but to the participants, it looked a lot like play.
No matter how long a person has been interacting in another culture, there’s always more to learn. When one team member was asked to balance an increasing number of dice on a popsicle stick held in his mouth, team members discovered how to communicate encouragement, support, and direction when a Deaf person’s eyes are busy elsewhere.
While our hearing CITs are highly educated and trained, they gained an added appreciation of what their Deaf colleagues bring to the table–native linguistic fluency and expertise, and understanding of Deaf cultural nuances and values gained from a lifetime in the Deaf community.