I Am Not the Sum of My Communication Choice

tommie copper shoot If you turn on the TV in the wee hours the morning you will find me barefoot waterskiing in an infomercial called Life Recharged. In the infomercial, there is no signing until the end.

The infomercial has been on TV for a year. Ever since it aired, I have been receiving comments and questions about my method and mode of communication. Some asked me why I didn’t turn off my voice and use American Sign Language. Others asked me why I didn’t sign and speak through the whole thing.

The answer was simple: I just did what felt right at the time given the environment, people, and purpose. If you look on the web, I did another filming for a videophone company in which I didn’t use my voice at all.

And yes, someone asked me why I didn’t speak in that video.

What saddens me is that I come across this communication marginalization almost on a daily basis. Through my work with families and young deaf and hard of hearing adults I see this happening all the time: separation, judgment, and segmentation based on communication skills and choices. I’ve seen families torn to shreds on the web about the choices they make for their deaf or hard of hearing baby/child. 

It breaks my heart.

I love American Sign Language. I’m fascinated by cueing. I enjoy using my voice and sometimes I sign along with it.

And I’ve been praised, criticized, shunned, or celebrated for whatever aspect a person likes or dislikes about my communication method or modes.

The thing is, I’m not the sum of my communication skills, methods, or choices.

To focus solely on that is to miss the message.

And the person behind it.

Karen Putz