Over the course of my life, I have taken five semesters of American Sign Language. I don't remember what inspired me to join, but I know that they were holding classes at the local library for a few dollars, and the cost of a book. It was great, once a week we would get together with a deaf lady from The Cleveland Center for Speech and Hearing, and she would slowly teach us sign. At first, it was fairly easy, obviously, but eventually when it got to the grammar, it was more difficult.
A few of the days, our teacher Ju-Lee couldn’t come for various reasons, so her boss Sue would come. Sue is deaf as well, and like Ju-Lee she could read lips and talk very well, making her a great teacher for us hearing kids. We would meet for something like two and a half to three hours, and once our lesson was done Sue would tell stories. One of my favorite stores was how she got stuck in the elevator at work. But, one of the most fascinating things she ever told us about was her special brown phone.
Sue is deaf like I have stated, and like I mentioned earlier she talks rather well. This being known I make the statement that Sue talks on the phone, to hearing people, without the help of the Ohio Relay System. How can this be, you might ask?! Well, a little while ago (maybe 8 years ago) Sue had a special phone made for her office to help her save time when talking to hearing people. What she does is, she gets one of the hearing workers (who knows sign) to sit next to her with the ear piece of the phone, while she sits and holds the mouth piece. When the person answers the phone, the person with the ear piece signs what is being said, while Sue answers back in English vocally. It is quite ingenious. One of the mothers of the children attending the class had to call Sue for some reason, and later when hearing the story of the phone call the mom said that beside Sue cutting her off a few times, you couldn't tell that she wasn’t actually listening to you talk. Truly amazing.
When you think about how hard it is to do that, you have to have respect for Sue and her talents. When Sue watches the person sign to her, she has to take what she sees, and understand it (in ASL which has a grammar that is completely different to English). Then she has to think of a response in English and think about how to say it; and she has to do this in a split second. I find Sue a fascinating and truly outstanding example of a driven women. She is driven to not let her handicap affect her life.