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Incidental Information You Don't Get when You're Deaf

Incidental Information You Don't Get when You're Deaf

Deaf Culture   |  Thursday, July 31, 2014

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

Hearing people have access to “incidental information” all the time. They overhear conversations, they hear comments and remarks on the radio and television. Even background noises count as incidental information. This is called “hearing privilege.”  You don’t even think about it happening because it just does. How often can you actually pinpoint the exact moment you learned a new piece of information? Most of us forget where or how we came by the knowledge we have. We just know what we know. 

Here are some examples of when hearing people get information that deaf people don’t:

  • When a hearing person laughs at something someone said.
  • When hearing students (in a mainstream class) are talking about random things.
  • When an announcement is made over the PA system.
  • When you overhear a conversation at another table or in the next room.
  • When you can overhear 5 or 6 conversations at the same time around you and you can tune in or out of any conversation you want.
  • When interpreters (because of speed or skill) drop information.
  • When elementary school kids listen to what middle school or high school kids say on the bus.
  • An announcement on the radio.
  • A commercial on TV (not all shows or commercials are captioned).
  • Overhearing co-workers answers to client’s questions.
  • Comments between teachers and interpreters.
  • Every time a deaf student looks down to write notes they miss information from the interpreters.
  • What your kids are doing in the next room: closet doors opening, cupboards closing, water running, zippers zipping, tiptoeing up the stairs, giggling.
  • Hearing your keys drop, an alarm go off, a phone ring or a knock on the door. 

When communicating with the deaf, make sure you are aware of this incidental information and do your best to keep them in the loop.

Can you think of other examples of incidental information? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

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