Actually I hesitated to write about this because it involves my experience with the disabled. I don’t want to be considered rude, mean, or inconsiderate. But just for a heads-up, I’m not going to talk something negative about them. Not at all. I just want to share my experience. My apologies if you find some parts inappropriate or offensive.
So, well, I have already known that my university is an inclusive campus. America is an inclusive country, somehow. What I mean by inclusive is that it provides all facilities and services to make it accessible for everyone including people with “disabilities”. For example, the buildings are always equipped with some part where people can navigate their way with a wheelchair, a system that is kinda hard to find in my country. I have seen plenty people in wheelchairs around the campus or even outside the campus, in town, riding a bus alone, and other public places. They are so independent. The facilities and services allow them to be independent. Nevertheless, I had never experienced having a class with one before. I had a class with a “blind” student before, but she dropped the class in the beginning so I guess I didn’t really count. So, why am I writing about th
Well, the other day I had this class where we had a deaf student. (The class was cancelled in the first week of the semester because the professor was sick so we started one week late). I realized that she was deaf because she and her friend used sign language. That’s so cool! No offense, I mean it; I wish I could do sign language. I learned only the letters back then when I was in high school. And, oh, by the way, I have no problems taking a class with her, so please, please don’t get me wrong. I was just impressed and amazed. And I want to share with you.
As I have said before, my campus is inclusive; it provides what you need to make sure you learn the best. So you might have guessed, the university provides the lady with two interpreters. God bless these two people! I know it’s their job to interpret using sign language for such students. Still, if we didn’t have them, what would it be like? And the student, she reminded me to always be grateful. My sigh, my hearing, my voice, and everything else. Now it feels like a privilege. For example, I can write some notes while listening to my professor’s explanation or others’ asking question. This student, however, has to rely only on her sight. She sees the board to see what is written and see if there is anything she could copy to her notes while at the same time she has to look at the interpreter for the explanation given by the professor or for any Q&A happening in the class. I can’t imagine being her. Like, for instance, if I looked down to see my notes, while the professor is explaining, it means I would miss the explanation interpreted in sign language since I didn’t look at the interpreter. And it might not be the same, I mean the interpretation. I know because I think it’s kinda similar to translating, except that it’s a real-time or simultaneous translation or interpretation. It must be harder. I did some translation before, so I know how hard it is. Sometimes you understand but you just can’t get it out in the other language you are translating it into, so you just translate “the points” hoping it would fit the context and be precisely comprehensible. And this is a graduate course, a hard topic to add to that, and these interpreters use sign language to help her. I don’t mean to underestimate the interpreters, but I’m just thinking that the comprehension might be different if you hear the explanation yourself. So you see why I think the student is amazing? She puts up with all of that, trying to understand all of that, despite being disabled. Once again I’m sorry, I don’t mean to say that the disabled have no right to receive such education, no. It’s hard for me to understand everything even though I have my hearing with me. I’m so touched because I believe she has to make more efforts than me to comprehend all of that. I feel so sorry that I take many things for granted.
I don’t know if I am being exaggerating here. Really sorry for that. But I really am not trying to appear holy, sympathetic, social-justice-warrior-like (you-name-it!). I don’t want to pity on them either. I simply admire them. Please understand, I come from a place (at least in my neighborhood) that is not “disabled-friendly”. I come from a place where the disabled are often considered “a burden”. They don’t get facilitated like here in the states (see? Even though there are many things people hate about USA, there are things that are admirable, too. At least compared to my country). And note that I’m not excluding my family here. Even though I believe they are kind and helpful towards the disabled, I shall admit that sometimes they joke about them, too, which I am afraid is actually offensive, inappropriate, and inconsiderate. For this, I am sorry. I’m still trying to “educate” them. It will take some time, I know.
But anyway, now you might have understood why. I really hope my country, Indonesia, can be like that somehow. Maybe someday. Supportive for the disabled. It will take time, I know. People still stare when they see someone in a wheelchair. They stare when they see the blind, or the dumb, or people using sign language. I’m sure they do not always mean bad. Sometimes it’s simply because they are not used to it. They just need to be familiarized with and educated about it. I know because, as you have witnessed, I myself am like that. I have shown you how amazed I am with this student in my class. I try my best not to stare because I don’t want to cause such discomfort, but sometimes I’m curious that I can’t help it but observe how she learns, in addition to paying attention to the interpreters. I apologize if I am being rude. But really, I hope my country can be supportive and inclusive like that someday.
PS: The interpreters took turn sitting in front of the class, facing the student, interpreting for her. It’s a 2.5hour class.