Yesterday was Deaf Awareness day at Six Flags Great America in Maryland. One of our class assignments is to go to two deaf events, so I decided to make this one of them. Most burdensome homework ever, not!
What makes a day at Six Flags Deaf Awareness day? Firstly, discounted tickets! Secondly, interpreters at every show and available throughout the park for anyone who needs them. Thirdly, and this is the most fun, lots of people signing throughout the park. I was pleasantly surprised that even the staff at the park could sign basic words such as “thank you” and “hello.” They must have had some basic training in Deaf culture and ASL prior to the event!
I went to Six Flags with three friends. All of us were hearing, but we made it a point to only use ASL throughout the day since there would be Deaf people around all day. This is not merely so we can practice our ASL, but also so we are able to connect with other Deaf people and respect Deaf space. This is more important than many hearing people realize. Imagine being the only one at a party in, say, Germany, who didn’t know German but was in a room half full of people who could speak English. How would you feel if those who knew English chose only to speak German to each other, even when you were around them? It would be considered rude by most.
Using ASL invited others who sign, deaf or hearing, to communicate freely with us. I realized this as I exchanged glances, polite greetings, and friendly smiles with other Deaf people as we walked through the park. As we stood in line, waiting for our turn to get on various rides, it also occurred to me that ASL is extremely useful in noisy environments. My voice wasn’t getting hoarse as it could have under the hot sun since I did not have to use it. I was also able to communicate with my friends from a much further distance. This is super helpful in a crowded space (and on the lazy river.) When my friend was ordering food at the counter and wanted to know if I wanted any fries, he could sign to me from across the restaurant where I was and did not have to yell or walk over!
At Six Flags, I watched a couple shows that were interpreted. At the first show, there were two interpreters since it was a play. The interpreters took turns interpreting the lines of the actors, playing various characters, and sometimes, signing in conversation with each other. This was a new experience for me. My eyes darted back and forth between the actors and the interpreters. Truth be told, the I could not make out what the actors were actually saying half of the time since the audio system was so poor, so I had to rely on the interpreters to follow the story. The second show had a segment that taught people how to line dance. It was interesting to watch the interpreters describe rhythms and steps using various classifiers.
It was wonderful to experience a taste of what it would be like if the world (aside from Gallaudet) was more Deaf-friendly. Six Flags has a Deaf Awareness day every summer, so if there’s one near you, do look out for it and check it out.