Intergenerational Deaf Forum – Education

We invite you to the first of four meetings of the Intergenerational Deaf Forum. The topic of the meeting: Education.

Welcome to The First Deaf Forum. We are here … This building was build in 1916. There was an iron factory, various equipment. I hope that today there will be an iron discussion, it’s mean heated discussion. Today we start with the topic of education.

Version with translation into International Sign

Introduction of participants and a few words about their education

I would like to ask you one by one – either this way or that way – please introduce yourself and also say a little about your education. Was one in a special school, or in an integrated school, or in a mass school? What was the level? What level of education did you have? You’re very welcome. Who is starting? Which side?

– My name is Alicja Nowogrodzka and I went to an elementary school with integrated classes. It was a mass school and I also went to junior high school in the same style. And high school was already a mass class – but I was lucky that I happened to be in a small class, which means fewer students enrolled, and so the class was more intimate. I am after studying food technology and human nutrition. I did postgraduate studies in art therapy with elements of psychology or creativity.

[Tomasz]: – Super

– My name is Paulina Lewandowska. I am currently a doctoral student at the doctoral school in the fourth year. And when it comes to my educational past, first, it was kindergarten, kindergarten so-called Montessori. Then elementary school with integrated classes, for the first three years of elementary school, then I moved to a school near where I live. It was an all-school, with classmates and friends I knew from when I was a toddler. Then the school was a complex of schools – the middle school and high school were also all-school, and the classes were quite large, but I think an important issue in this case was that in the middle school the people who were in the class were also in the previous years, so it was easier for me, even though the large group was. In high school, it was already a little worse due to the fact that there were new faces for me and a large group too. And after high school I continued my education. I undertook undergraduate and graduate studies, I have two master’s degrees. I don’t know how to say it… I just have two…

– Master’s degrees.

– Yes, master’s degrees, to be exact. Well, now I’m at the next level of education – doctoral level.

– My name is Dominika Kopanska. Unfortunately, I went from the beginning to a mass schools, kindergartens also mass. I graduated cognitive science, a master’s degree, and now I’m a doctoral student in philosophy, where I study the identity of hard of hearing people, living on the borderline of two worlds – deaf and hearing.

– My name is Weronika Pawelec. From the beginning, I went to a mass school. Before that, I had no idea that there were schools for the deaf. In first middle school, I learned that there were schools for the deaf. I went from the second middle school to a school for the deaf in Kielce. I was there for two years. Then I moved to Krakow, also to a school for the deaf. There I was also those four years. Well, and then, which is now, I’m in my first year of university at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań.

– Thank you.

– My name is Zofia Kocon. I’m a fifth-year law student at Marie Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin. Previously, I received my education in mass schools – I attended elementary school, junior high school and high school in hearing schools.

– Hi, my name is Karolina Czaba. I started my educational path at the age of two, that is, from the nursery. And it was also a mass kindergarten, Elementary School with Integrated Branches. I rebelled and found that I would not continue to go to an integrated middle school, so I already went back to a mass school – and so on for the rest of my education, that is, through middle school, high school and university. I am after studying dietetics. Currently, I am now working and also studying, because there is never enough education, so I am on a vocational course as a herbalist and psychotherapist.

– My name is Eugenisz Morawski. From generation to generation, I am a deaf person. This is already the third generation I was born in Radom and went to a school and kindergarten for the deaf. Then I moved to a vocational school in Warsaw. Together with deaf people I went to a school on Łucka Street. Then I was very active in sports for the deaf. I don’t have a university education My passion is a sport. Thanks.

– My name is Marek Smakowski. This is my sign. In kindergarten, I was for hearing people. I finished kindergarten, moved to elementary school, to the eighth grade. When I finished that school, then I was in a special school in Wejherowo. I gained a profession as a draftsman. When I finished school… Excuse me. After that, I was in a construction technical school for the hearing. I went to evening school for three years. And then I worked in a construction project office.

– Super. Thank you.

– My name is Robert Romanowski. I am from Łódź I finished elementary school and vocational school, in Łódź, as a locksmith. Then I started working as an upholsterer, and then as an office carpenter. And now I’m involved in sports, I’m in Curling – in such a sport and I’m on the national team. Thank you.

– Thank you.

– My name is Agnieszka Szeliga. I am already the second generation of the deaf. Since I was a child in kindergarten, I was with hearing children in an integrated kindergarten. Then I immediately started school in Srodborow. There I finished elementary and middle school, then I moved to a school on Łucka Street in Warsaw, and then I started working in the office.

– Super. Thank you.

– My name is Anna Tomaka and I am from Rzeszów. I I have been living in Warsaw for several years. I graduated from a mass kindergarten, mass elementary school, high school. In my time there were no integrated branches. I have a master’s degree in law, graduated from the UMCS, and now I’m studying photography in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

– In the Czech … ?

– Yes, in the Czech Republic.

– Already? Hi, Jolanta Andrzejewska. I come from Mława. From the beginning, since kindergarten I went to a mass school – to the second grade of junior high school. I had a problem with learning, I couldn’t handle it… I suffered a lot, my parents told me then that there are special schools for people with hearing impairment. And then I moved to school at Zakroczymska Street. There I meet with the society of the hearing impaired and I finished high school on Łucka Street. Later I went to an extramural school as an administrative technician. I also worked as an intern in an office. Well, now I just take care of my children and household duties.

– Thank you very much.

– My name is Bartosz Golędzinowski. I went to a mass kindergarten, then I went to an elementary school with integrated departments, and I didn’t do well there, because there wasn’t such a good education there. So I begged my mother to change my school again. She changed, I went to another school, a middle school, where it’s a mass school, and it was much better there. Then I changed the school to a high school with integrated departments, because I was in a class with the majority – that is, with a few people who have a hearing impairment. As a result, I was better able to learn in school. Then I went to art college for interior design, and later graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in the Interior Design Department. I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Now I am working.

– My name is Apolonia Rokicka and I am a student of the fourth year of high school. This year I am facing my high school graduation. Every school, every kindergarten I went to, was just a mass institution.

– We are keeping our fingers crossed for matriculation (exams).

– Thank you.

– Thank you very much. Thank you for introducing yourself. There were probably more people in integrated schools, right?

– Yes more.

How do you evaluate the level of your education? What was positive and what was negative about it?

– Okay. I have a question, but not one at a time, but whoever wants to, they can come forward. How do you recall, was your education at a good level or at a low level? What was positive? What was negative?

– I can tell.

– Please.

– In elementary school and the middle school in Srodborow, my first language was SJM (SJM – Sign System). Of course, before that, my parents and I used to sign at home in PJM, (PJM – Polish Sign Language), but at school we were taught the system. Positive memories I rather don’t have, more negative ones. Now I’ll say this: some things I just didn’t understand there, at that school. I didn’t learn on the fives. For me, the system – in general for purely deaf people – the system is difficult.

– In my case, I believe that the biggest school of life I experienced was in mass school. I believe that elementary school, it was an introduction for me, if only, perhaps by the fact that I could quietly adapt to the environment of education. On the other hand, I think it was only middle school that showed the real school of life, that I was literally run over by a tank, but for that, I adapted very well in the environment, in the education environment or at work. That is, I was able to cope. Thanks to this, too, education was at a slightly higher level, because in the integration class they lowered a little bit, if only the grades, that in my opinion were not adequate to the knowledge and skills. On the other hand, by the fact that in middle school they graded the way they graded the others, and thanks to this I was able to compare equally with the hearing people in the class. Also, the fact that the middle school was difficult, then later high school or college I had such a hardened character, and because of this, I do well in life in this way. Also in my case, it is positive.

– Thank you very much.

– I, for example, in school, from first to eighth grade in elementary school, the teachers were all hearing, and we were all deaf. In my class, everyone was deaf. We sign with each other during lessons. The teachers forbade us to use sign language, they told us to speak, but I couldn’t speak. They just forced us to speak. It was very difficult. If I did homework, I couldn’t sign anything. I had to speak everything. With my parents at home, I would sign, I was used to it. And at school, it was like a parrot, I had to repeat something and tell the teacher orally. I felt that I just didn’t fit in, as a young child. Now as an adult, for me, it’s natural that I sign. Teachers should also be able to sign. They didn’t know how to sign back then, they knew how to say some short phrases in sign language, “good morning,” “goodbye.” And now things are changing a little bit. Education is changing a little bit. Educators are graduating, they’re doing their master’s degree at the school on Łucka Street. There are already more and more educators of the deaf all over Poland. Children feel better, they just feel that identity. I used to feel very bad. Now my son, for example, in the fourth generation is also a deaf, he also signs. It used to be very different. They made us speak orally all the time. It was very difficult. I was forced to do it. For me it was difficult. I think they have it much better now. These are such downsides, upsides of the past and present.

– It’s true, there are very many such examples, all over the country, it’s the same that people feel compelled. Does anyone else want to come forward?

– I can come forward. When I went to elementary school I had an awful lot of problems. The problem is that it is a school with integrated departments, so that the class is a variety of children – not only with hearing loss, but also with other disabilities. Because of this, teachers have not been accommodating to everyone in the class, and it’s just too much of a mix of disabilities in one class. And in addition, teachers are sometimes reluctant to adapt to the needs of students, they just pour it on. Well, and because of that I had problems with learning, because first of all, not only because of the diversity, but also because I started rehabilitation. So as I started rehabilitation, I was not able to understand what others were saying to me – children as well as teachers. I started rehabilitation, so when I didn’t understand, others started laughing at me, due to the fact that I was reacting strangely. Teachers also laughed at me. That’s why I begged my mother to change the school to a mass school, because I hoped it would be a little different, because I didn’t want too many people with disabilities in my class. And in the mass school, where I met with hearing people alone, I was the only person with a disability in the school – this was an advantage for me because it made all the teachers focus on my need and not all the other needs. And this is where I started using FM – which is a great help for me, because I still have trouble understanding what the teachers are saying to me, so this was a great support for me. And thanks to the fact that I had the biggest.…

– What did you have? Wait.

[Tomasz]: FM

– What is the FM?

– FM system…

– Well, thanks to the fact that I embraced it that way, then in high school, it was so laid back for me, that I was able to manage to learn and in general, had a good contact with hearing people. I was a nerd in elementary school class, but in middle school I had only 2s and 1s, (= D, F) and in high school, I had only 5s, 6s. (= A, A+) Such a big change in my life.

– I will tell my story. I was in elementary school in Łódź. Polish language teachers, math teachers, they were signing on the same level as deaf people. It was really great. It was very comfortable. I finished eighth grade. I moved to a special school in Wejherowo. Teachers and rules – all the same – but the standards were lower. Polish or physics teachers didn’t sign at all, zero they didn’t sign anything at all. Deaf people only looked at their lips and tray to read. They spoke every day and you had to take notes of everything. I suffered for three years. I finished school. Thanks to that, I done the improvement of the Polish language level. Mr Professor didn’t sign at all, but he was very nice, but very respectful of discipline. He admitted that he himself spoke, he admitted that deaf people are not stupid, deaf people are sometimes lazy they need to be motivated to work. Then I felt … That’s how they really taught in the system. Well, but it is known that… I treat equally the System and Polish Sign Language.

– Thank you.

– Maybe what I’m going to say will be too controversial, but my experience with the mass school… I don’t know where to look! My experience may be too controversial, because ever since I can remember my education has been like a survival camp. Why? For as long as I can remember, teachers treated me as such an inferior sort of people. An inferior sort. For example, when I said that I didn’t hear something, I didn’t understand, it was “Dominika be focused!.” Later there were also a lot of games on deaf phone, but I explained that I couldn’t hear, that I had to see the movement of my lips. Well, I was always the worst one, the one deviating from the whole group. I was also taught that hearing people were better. Namely, I didn’t know hard of hearing people at all, deaf people. I only met the first hard of hearing person, at the age of 26 – so quite late. And through my education in mass schools I learned to adopt masks, namely, pretending to understand something. I’ll admit frankly, for the most part, my education

– I don’t know what it was about. I don’t know what topic was in the lessons, I don’t know what was covered in high school or middle school, what the lessons were about. I started pretending very well, until I came across a teacher with a vocation, who saw that I was pretending something, but ineffectively. I was caught off guard by something that didn’t work for me. Namely, he changed his teaching tactics, i.e. he moved his mouth clearly, showed me that I was hard of hearing, didn’t mean inferior. So then I realized that for as long as I can remember, I’ve been hindering this education – after all, I had equal access o the various subjects there. And thanks to this teacher, I forgot about the fact that I was a student from whom nothing would grow up later, or nothing would come of this person. And I was even given wings. So it wasn’t until college, I can say – college, the end of high school, that was the best time.

– It’s terrible. Please, Agnieszka.

– I also wanted a little here…. I forgot his name…. Bartek. I wanted to add on the subject of mass school. Just on that topic, there are people with intellectual disabilities in an inclusive class, so there are deaf people and people with intellectual disabilities together. I didn’t feel comfortable in that. Why? Because deaf people are able to learn normaly, and teachers have to adjust to people who have intellectual disabilities. That’s why it was hard. A special school is a little different. We are not talking about schools in Warsaw, we are mostly talking about schools in other cities.

Is it true that hearing parents of a deaf child prefer to send them to a mass school so that they can learn to speak there?

– Well, thanks for that. I have an additional question… Were a lot of you in an integrated school and why? Why from a child in the mass one? Recently at a conference of the Ministry of Education, the Minister of Education told that 95% of deaf people have hearing parents, and the situation that deafness is passed from parents to children will be 5%. The question is, is it true that hearing parents, if they have a deaf child, they prefer to give them to a mass school to teach them to speak there, to force them to do so, with such discipline? How do you feel about this topic?

– Yes. I think so. I don’t know if hearing parents… How do hearing parents behave? I don’t know. I am in a deaf family. It is known that communication is difficult. How does it work in a mass school? How does the deaf child behave? After all, there is a kindergarten, a school for the deaf, but often hearing parents do not want to send their children there, they prefer these children to be in integrated schools. And now I have noticed that more and more of these children are in integrated schools. But a deaf person in an integrated school – well, I don’t know, after all, there are schools for the deaf. Well, but I observe that this is indeed the case. I am from generation to generation a deaf person. If I had hearing children, there would be no problem. I wouldn’t feel a problem if they need to be given to a hearing school, but in reverse situations – well, I don’t know. It is difficult to say what is a good choice. I don’t know why this is the case.

– We’ve had implants for 20 years now. If a hearing child is born, well, we can do surgery for him. But let’s not talk about just implants, but let’s talk about education here. How do you think hearing parents, if a deaf child is born, do the parents want to force the child to speak? Do they have a lack of information? Why? Why is there a reason that if a deaf child is born, Do we go to a mass school? Agnieszka. Here I would like to tell an example of a hearing family. A deaf child is born. How do we know about it? The doctor does an audiogram, does various tests, checks it. And we go to an integrated school or a special school. And it all depends on that doctor. Of course. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the case that when I came into the world, my parents didn’t know that I was a deaf person. Only later, I don’t know, I think two years later somehow or so, that they realized I had something wrong with my hearing loss. So then they gave me hearing aids, it turned out that it doesn’t help, since I’m fully deaf. As for education – at that time, no one provided information about what schools were like, what opportunities were available and so on. Because of this, my parents took the information themselves, they just looked anywhere. They knew about the fact that there is a mass school, a mass school with integrated departments, and it is a school for the deaf. My parents, as a result of finding out so late that I had such a hearing impairment and getting an implant too late, caused them to not fully know if I was able to function with hearing children. And it’s simply new to them. My parents made the decision that when I go to kindergarten, they will observe whether I am able to function in a hearing society. If they decide that I won’t be able to do it, they will simply transfer me to school, where sign language will have to be learned. But it turned out that I could handle it in kindergarten, and they decided to still give me a chance in elementary school to see if I could handle it. Well, and they saw that somehow I managed with hearing children. But they also decided that they still wanted to send me to different organizations where there are other hearing children, so that I would have integration with them and with them (hearing and hearing impaired). Also, that’s the decision the parents made.

[Tomasz]: Interesting.

– In my case, I have hearing parents, but there was a fight between them – between my father and my mother. My mother wanted to send me to an integrated school, while my father insisted that I was not a person with a disability, so I would go to a mass school, that I would do great. Also, I saw two different worlds, two different perspectives. Also, this is also a question for parents. Seeing that my siblings go to an area school, where I had to commute five kilometers, however, I preferred the mass school. That’s why this rebellion appeared in me at the end of elementary school. Also, my mother always looked from the perspective of raising a child. That is, I mean, “the child can’t cope, so poor,” etc. And dad: “you can do it, Karolina, you’ll go to a mass school and you’ll do fine”. Also it was funny from the child’s perspective, seeing two different perspectives.

– So parental support is important? Parental support is important.

– Yes, yes…

– My brother was born deaf, he was implanted early, because even before he could walk. Also he already implants himself (unintelligible). He went to a mass school, because it was very important for him, such contact with peers. Also, how… Oh mother, I don’t know! I lost the thread!

– This will come back soon, keep it. Something you wanted to say?

– Yes, I wanted to say from experience that my parents are hearing, and for me it was natural that I would go to a mass school with an inclusive class. And in the beginning, we stuck to the principle that if I couldn’t cope, I would go to a school for the deaf. However, somehow I managed, for the first year emotionally I didn’t cope, because almost every day I cried after school. Well, because then, as a child, I didn’t understand why do these assignments, why so many of these duties, why so much of this to write, that instead of having fun after school, relaxing, it was still a lot of further work and rehabilitation. I also remember going to the speech therapist in the morning. This was also such a part of my education. And it was such a choice for me to practice speaking as much as possible from a young age. And it wasn’t until I was offered an implant that even more results came out of that, from that work, because when I wore hearing aids at the beginning of school, that communication was hindered and I understood little of what was going on at school. I disliked the blackboard very much, because I knew that in a moment the teacher would speak to the blackboard and not to the student. I just waited for him to turn back and say (repeat), but often the teachers then either cut the thread, abbreviated what they said when they spoke to the blackboard, and then I knew that again I would have to sit so much over the lessons to know what the tasks were about. Also, it was such a work of the whole family, it was not just my work – to somehow continue all these lessons, activities (to do) – but well of the whole family.

– I have just such similar experiences, too. My earliest educational memories are of sitting at a table, at a desk, and my mother leaning over me and teaching me what was taught in school. And I also remember very well the beginnings of learning English. My mother didn’t know a word of English, but I was so lucky that my godmother gave me a Polish-English, English-Polish dictionary as a gift, and she was learning English with me, but on such a basis that she had to read how the words were pronounced phonetically. And I remember very well just how lame it was for her and how lame it was for me. But what I liked about my family was the division of responsibilities when it came to rehabilitation. For the reason that my mother, for example, took the time to teach me, to do assignments, lessons, etc. with me. My dad, on the other hand, was responsible for, for example, driving me to school, or even to rehabilitation to a speech therapist. I also had to (drive) to Warsaw. I remember, once a week I would go to Warsaw for various treatments for me. My parents were taking all possibilities to cure me of my deafness – if I may say so. And I remember just weekly drives for this purpose, to help me somehow – there was one gentleman near Warsaw, in Podkowa Leśna

– I don’t know if you also have such experiences. But my parents… Yes, my parents are hearing, my whole family is hearing. If someone is hearing impaired, it’s because of age, that is, sixty knocks on the door and deafness comes, or hearing impairment there.

[Anna]: So early?

– And that’s it for me. It seems to me that it was such a natural sequence for her (for the mother) that, okay, we’re all hearing, and a hearing-impaired child was born… No… I was born hearing in general, probably, my parents don’t know that either, and it turned out, only when I was two years old, that I had hearing damage, because they observed, and it wasn’t until I was three years old that I received hearing aids, and for them, it was kind of so natural that I was born hearing, then you have to go back to those times of hearing, to give those opportunities to hear sounds for that child. That’s why, for example, there was this rehabilitation, sending me to an integrated school, I mean to a school with integrated classes. And as for this experience with school, I don’t remember the moment, how it happened that I ended up in a general school in my neighbourhood at all. But it seems to me that they just asked me, saw that I was doing as such. And that’s what’s interesting – as someone here said, with nerdiness precisely, Bartosz. But with me, there was a similar situation, that in the integration school I was average I was just going along, passing all these subjects, I mean, not passing, just going from class to class. But when I went to a general school, a call normally shot through me, just this competition, to be better than all those hearers, because I just knew that if I don’t apply myself, if I don’t start learning myself, no one will help me. Especially since my parents had kind of backed off from such a stage of rehabilitating me on the basis of helping me in classes, because they saw that I was managing on my own. Only it was also a matter of the fact that I have such a type of character too, that if I didn’t understand something, I would go up to the teacher and ask him to explain to me, outside of lessons, what it was about, because I didn’t understand. And it also seems to me that this made the teachers perceive me and the other students in the class differently, because they saw that I was a nerd, had good grades, I always had homework, and there was also such exploitation of me. And I remember such situations that “oh, Paulina, can you lend me notes, because I didn’t have time to do my homework” or something like that, and then in class, then during breaks I was nevertheless alone.

– Thank you.

Which school – inclusive, deaf or special – do you feel gives the highest level of knowledge?

– Still such an additional question. How do you, your colleagues and various people feel after mass school? Do you feel that you have the knowledge, or are you rather low-grade with knowledge? The second: did the integrated school give you good knowledge? The third: how about a special school? And also the second question: which of these schools – mass, integrated, or special – gave you such a strong identity? I as a hearing person, which of these three to choose? Which one for whom? Please.

– Let me put it this way: attending a mass school, from the very beginning, as far back as I can remember, I always felt so isolated from society. It was as if I was being shown that I was completely different from the rest, and I could never accept myself. I blamed myself more for being this way, why I was born, etc. On the other hand, once I moved to a school for the hard of hearing and deaf, I was already saying, “ok, this is the world I should have belonged to from the very beginning.”

– Thank you very much.

– I lost the thread… I was such a mentally strong person, so when it came to my friends, I had such a trusted group of people it was a handful of one or two people that I might go to a club with, for example. I turned off my hearing aids and was quickly outdone. I had an interpreter next to me, a friend or colleague who explained to me what the discussion was about, for example. Also at school, I was the kind of person to whom people who were, let’s say, bullied or mentally weaker or with disabilities would run to me, well, because they knew that since I was somehow finding my way in… (unintelligible), that I was that safe sphere. As for identity

– I didn’t feel any identity for a very long time, so I also reached out for therapeutic help to find answers to the questions I was missing. The problem was bigger when I met a person who was hard of hearing and deaf, so I didn’t know which world I was in. Would I learn sign language here and maybe have some of those friends, or identity, and feel a sense of belonging, or maybe a hard of hearing person. It’s just that every hearing-impaired person functions differently, specifically, so if I’m to be so honest and say whether I feel that I’m a hearing-impaired person, that I have my identity, my community – but no, so far I don’t feel anywhere that I belong. A little bit here, a little bit there, but that’s as well. The most important thing is that I’ve accepted that I can’t hear, because without that I wouldn’t go on.

– Super.

– In my case, as I was in a hearing school, I felt like I didn’t fit in there. I couldn’t find myself among my peers. I went to a school for the deaf and also hard of hearing. There I felt better among others also because it was easier for me to make contact, because it wasn’t just at the same time usually, others spoke to me and sign, because I have such a thing that it helps me when someone both signs and speaks to me at the same time. It was also the case that I also didn’t feel completely deaf, I didn’t feel, nor did I feel deaf, kind of in the middle. Right? So kind of a little bit here, a little bit here, a little bit in the middle.

– And who we are, we don’t know, I suspect.

– Today we probably won’t solve it.

– I may still…

– You are welcome.

– I acct, for example, in my times there were no integration classes, there was only…. if already, a special school, probably from 50 kilometres from Rzeszow, with boarding, so necessarily my mother said that “Well, nothing, we’ll try in a normal school”. Especially since so only after I turned two years old I was diagnosed. I had box hearing aids at first, and later I had only one hearing aid. I don’t know why I went from box hearing for two ears to get one.

– A Box hearing aid? Then here you have a box hearing aid and for it two ears, yes.

– System… Aha…

– Well, and one walked around with something like this. I remember that even my grandmother specially made such a crochet basket to hold it. That’s how it was worn under the shirt. Well, the only option was a special school, somewhere 50 kilometres with a boarding elementary school, that when I got my first hearing aids, I quickly began to speak and from the beginning I camouflaged myself, because I read lips very well. Well, and at the stage of masks it is known, I think we all suffer. Well, from the beginning I camouflaged a little bit. Well, I was in this elementary school ordinary, and I feel more that I got such a stigma from teachers, not from peers. To this day I remember that high school is such a trauma for me. The Polish teacher always when I had to say something, he would make me stand up and to the whole class she would say: “Now be quiet, because Ania has very bad diction” (repeated letter “R”) and this cut me down for many years. And the best part is that it’s my classmates who don’t remember it.

– Would you like to?

– Yes. I, as I didn’t go to a mass school and all my life I surrounded myself practically only with hearing people, until recently, I didn’t have such an idea at all that, this hearing loss could be some kind of my identity and that it was my authentic problem at all. Because I fell into this sort of hearing child trap, because often the reaction when people found out that I was hard of hearing was simply surprise and “you can’t see anything from you.” “How come, after all, you are so good to talk to. You’re communicative, you can’t see that you can’t hear.” And I for a very long time at all, thought that this was something strictly wrong, that this was some bad trait of mine that I should mask, or at least try to function completely like, my hearing peers. For a very long time, I had such a rebellion that I didn’t want to wear hearing aids. It lasted for as long as two years I think, from fourth to sixth grade. From what I remember, I had this phase from the age of seven that I didn’t want it in some way… it was so troublesome for me. And in fact, as you mentioned earlier… Magda? Do I remember (name) correctly?

– Ania.

– Ania, thank you. Like Ania mentioned, I often have the feeling that maybe, however, in my case, it was fortunately not so strictly stigmatization, but actually, I was simply forgotten, precisely because I was functioning well enough that this hearing loss of mine did not come to the fore. E.g. I still remember this day in school performances there were a few times that I stood, for example, in the last row and somehow managed just because I watched what my peers were doing. Well, and so, by learning to compensate for this hearing loss of mine, I just had an uphill battle, and for a very long time since I didn’t notice it.

– Bartek.

– Because I went to a school with integrated departments, it was as I mentioned earlier that there were all kinds of people in the class, all kinds of children with all kinds of disabilities. Because of this, I didn’t realize that I was different. I just see that everyone is different, everyone has their own problems, etc. Somehow I didn’t pay attention to my identity. All I had to do was just accept myself as I am. This is very important on me, if I accept myself, then I can already move forward. And with identity it’s so much I didn’t pay attention. It wasn’t until middle school that I started to notice something there, for the reason that then there are only hearing children there, and I’m the only one with hearing loss in the mass school. And I already began to understand that maybe I am different after all. So it’s a matter of where I stay simply. And by the fact that I was also going to different classes with children with hearing loss, I also didn’t quite think yet whether I was different, whether there was something wrong with me. I just functioned, really, in a mixed society, everyone is different, we’re really a diverse society, so it doesn’t matter that much.

– Referring to what Pola said more, but also Bartosz, but I just have this feeling that this is also a bit of a curse of the hard of hearing. I don’t want to sort of negate here that the deaf have it better or the hard of hearing have it better, because that’s not the point here, because everyone has it a little bit worse than (a person) who is hard of hearing. This is regardless. But I sometimes have this impression that, for example, if a deaf person has a sign language interpreter, it’s a little bit like it’s easier for society to understand that this person is hearing impaired and therefore one should adjust, help however one can. In the case of a hearing-impaired person, there is something like, “You really can’t hear? After all, you tell me, you speak very well, and you respond.” (Snapping his fingers and saying in a whisper) “Can you hear me? Do you hear me?” (unintelligible) And it really frustrated me! Incredibly, it frustrated me, because I am well rehabilitated, and my parents put a lot of effort intomaking me speak, making me hear well. They specifically bought top-of-the-line hearing aids so that I would have a gain of any kind from the hearing I have, some residual hearing. And I happen to be in the privileged position of being able to function in the hearing world on such a basis that no one can see that I have any problem until I say so myself. And very often and at school it was like that, I didn’t admit that I can’t hear, and some of my colleagues only realized after a few months that “that’s why there’s something wrong with you, because you just don’t understand us.” And during that time, I just…. Otherwise, let me put it this way: it seems to me that the problem was that I didn’t really know that hearing loss was such a problem for such…. I thought that my hearing loss was the same problem as, for example, wearing glasses. That is, for example, when someone wore glasses, a dozen years ago, even say 10, 15 years ago, when someone wore glasses, well, you know, it was so uncool, it wasn’t fashionable, now it’s fashionable, but I have this feeling that it was also with the hearing aids, that I had this feeling, that when I wear braces, just like glasses, that it’s a part of me that I’m not, I don’t feel inferior, I don’t feel better, but it’s thanks to my parents, because they instilled in me a sense of self-esteem, on the principle that “don’t feel inferior, just because you wear hearing aids.” Only that sometimes society sort of imposed on me the role of such a victim, that if I wear hearing aids, or at least in classes just that if I wear hearing aids, I’m not going to understand it all anyway. So if I don’t fight for myself, no one will fight for me.

– If I can still refer to what Paulina said about this fighting for oneself – yes, in my opinion this is a huge problem in elementary school, because, for example, it seems to me that generally children still at this age are not aware of their problems and in general what they need. And in high school, for example, I already see that I function much better and really have much less of a problem than in elementary school precisely because I can already take care of myself. And then, when I needed a teacher who would, for example, notice, “come here, stand closer,” or make sure I could hear, then there was simply no one like that.

– I am thinking acutely about what Ms. Anna said, à propos of hearing aids in school. I, since birth, am with profound hearing loss. The hearing aids don’t help me, they don’t help anything. So there was a period when we were forced to have hearing aids. But I generally couldn’t hear anything. In general it was pointless. I was very stubborn and didn’t want to wear hearing aids at all, because they didn’t help me anything. Maybe hearing-impaired people can be helped by hearing aids, but I was forced, and really, well, how was I supposed to feel? It didn’t help me at all. I was very stubborn. My dad convinced me that Ihad to wear hearing aids to school. I preferred to be without hearing aids. Those who want to wear hearing aids, let them wear hearing aids. Well, and these are the people who can speak. I can’t speak, I can’t hear, I have a profound hearing loss. If someone is hearing impaired, the hearing aid can support him. He can also put an implant on himself, it can support them. I don’t speak at all, so what does this hearing aid give me. How will I walk with this hearing aid? Does it give me any pleasure? It doesn’t. After a month, two months, I threw this hearing aid away. I asked my parents to leave me alone. I am deaf, I feel good about it. From generation to generation I am a deaf person. And now I look at children – no one is forced. I used to be forced to have this hearing aid just with this box hung on my chest. Well it was hard.

– On the other hand, when I was born, I was a hearing person, so I went to a mass school, while later, as I got older, I started to lose my hearing. And at first for me it was very difficult – I knew that everyone around me could hear, but I couldn’t, as if I was some kind of different. It was hard for me to accept it, I also sort of hid it. I knew that people around me could see that there was a problem, but I still said everything was fine. Well, yes in retrospect, today, I know that it was wrong, but at the time, still as such a little girl, a child, maybe I didn’t have enough courage in me to talk about it. I also remember the situation in middle school, I didn’t have hearing aids yet. That’s right, even though I hid it, it was already hard for me, I already felt I couldn’t cope, for example, I also borrowed my friends’ notebooks – they were always eager to give me, and later I simply rewrote the content from the lesson again at home. I was ambitious, I cared about getting good grades, but finally there was a moment when I went to my mother and said: “Mom I can’t handle it anymore, I’d like to wear hearing aids.” We went together to a hearing aid specialist for a hearing test, and I chose hearing aids. At the beginning, of course, I also said, “Let’s just make them as small as possible, so that you can’t see them.” Well, and the lady said: “OK, I’ll try to fit” so that they would also help me. And over time I also went to a psychologist, and there the psychologist, who also knows sign language, was also in the Deaf community, and thanks to her I also learned sign language. I just entered the world of deaf people. I also coached volleyball, joined the Polish deaf national team, and sort of also felt that this was my world. Later still in high school, I already had some experiences of my own with deaf people. That’s how my confidence grew, too. Even then I was already able, for example, to tell the teacher simply what my problem was, what I needed. And I also opened up to others, to my classmates. I even simply stood up at the educational hour and said that “listen, I have hearing aid, I wear hearing aids, I have such and such need”, and everyone then: “aha, ok no problem” And I saw for myself that it is unnecessary to hide it. You just need to find such courage from yourself to speak out about it, because then you can also change something.

– I’ll put it this way: for 20 years I lived between two worlds, and this world changed depending on the circumstances. And I was on this bridge and watched, observed. At school – I was in the world with people with disabilities. On the other hand, when I was with my family, at Christmas or somewhere – I was in the hearing world, because I have hearing siblings, everyone was talking. And so I observed that world. If you had to put on a mask, for school, okay, I’m so weaker. And if there was family time, at work or somewhere else, the world of hearing people. It was only that kind of identity that I developed in college. So when it comes to meeting typically hard of hearing people, that there is a hearing person, but just a speaking person, it was only during my studies that I learned that there is such a thing as a hard of hearing person, and thanks to my trips abroad, organizing various events during my studies, etc., it was only when I started to find a similar group to me that I developed a greater awareness and self-confidence, that I belong to the third world and we create this third world for me as hard of hearing people. And I forgot about this separateness, that there is also a deaf world, well, because these are still other needs. But I’m saying this from my perspective, so I’m in this third world and I promote this third world, I invite you.

[Tomasz]: You’re very welcome.

– I just wanted to allude to that. I also say that I’m a little bit of a bridge between the hearing world and the deaf world. I can also speak, but I don’t really hear. I’m a deaf person. I graduated from a high school at Łucka Street. Thanks in fact to this school, all the lessons, my company, I learned sign language. I felt that I could develop myself. I focused on activity, on deaf activism. I recently established The Young Deaf Academy Foundation and I focused on that as well. Young Deaf Academy

How do you recall your teachers?

– Good. I have a sad but interesting story. I used to teach teachers at a special school, it was a special school for the deaf, and I came to teach them to sign. Why? Because before, since graduation, they only knew the Sign System. They wanted me to teach them to sign. We sat in a circle and I asked them what their problem was. They had a problem of contact with deaf children. The lady said: “I have a problem. My class, the whole class – Kids was saying “my head hurts!”. I asked, “The whole class has a headache? What’s the matter?”. “Yes, yes, eight children, everyone’s head hurts.” And in Polish Sign Language, “head hurts” can be translated: “I hate the teacher.” For five years, she thought, these children really had headaches all the time. There was no contact at all. She signaled to herself, and the children in general laughed, laughed at her. And the teacher: “Oh, what a pity that these children’s head hurts!”. Question for you: how do you remember the teachers? Did they understand the deaf well? Did they understand the hard of hearing well? Were they able to support, adjust after school? Or did they just rush you so much?

– I remember three teachers throughout my educational period. The Polish lady in middle school, my PhD supervisor, and the math lady in high school – these are all teachers who helped me in some way.

– Few.

– In my case, on the other hand, it was also the teachers who helped a lot, I think that if it were not for their help, it would have been very difficult for me. That’s why I told my dad to bring me to a school for the deaf or an integrated school. The headmistress told my mother that if I transferred, I would simply be the best student there. The teachers knew that I was smart, ambitious, capable so they gave me this opportunity, education. I am very happy that always, when, for example, I asked not to get…. e.g. when there was a dictation that they should not dictate to me from listening, but that I should get a test, or for example listening to English, that I should also have a written test. In fact, I always talked about these needs and that’s what I got. But once such a situation happened in middle school, in chemistry, the teacher asked me to (stay) at the end of the lesson and said to me that if I am not able to write by ear now, what will happen in college? How will I manage? I so then broke down a little, came home and said to my mother: “Mom, there was such a situation…” and she says to me: “Don’t worry.” Well I also cried a little, I didn’t know…. I thought to myself, “Well, yes, then I probably can’t cope, if she said so”. Today I see that this is complete nonsense, after all, I’m in college, and in fact I’m graduating from these studies, I can have help or even a sign language interpreter or assistant, and I’m coping peacefully.

– And you are graduating from law school, not some ordinary college! Here you go.

– If I may say so, I had what I call three types of teachers teachers with a vocation; teachers who ignored, pretended normally that I had anything, any problem; and teachers who – at least I say so – who were very strict, in the sense that they wanted to teach the subject. And I have very fond memories of those teachers who were rigorous and those teachers with a vocation. For the reason that the indifferent ones…. I had such a situation, it was in high school, that I was in the arts and language profile. For the reason that I wanted to learn foreign languages and use these languages in a practical way. And I remember that I approached the English teacher with the information that I wanted to take the Extended Baccalaureate in English. Well, and he did… you could see such doubt in his gaze. It’s just that we, as hard-of-hearing, deaf people, sometimes know how to sort of pick up on these facial expressions, non-verbal messages – so you could see it. And it was somehow at the beginning of the first year, I mean the second year. And he says, “OK, if you want, fine, then come to these extension classes, with people who are going to take the extended baccalaureate.” Well, and I went to those classes, I did the assignments all, only problem was that he was the kind of teacher who didn’t see a problem of any kind. And if there were any classes, e.g. group classes or discussions, it was most often that, for example, when we were doing assignments, it was most often that I came forward first to say the assignment first, because I didn’t know what was going on after that, I didn’t know after that, I couldn’t keep up with what was going on in class, discussion or whatever. If there was a reading, I was the first to read the first sentences and then I didn’t know at what point in the text we were. And he didn’t see it. I also didn’t know which way to approach him, because I was a little shy to approach him. I don’t know, honestly, why, but it seems to me through this that he wanted to, but didn’t know how. Because he, you could see that he was the kind of teacher that liked to teach students, but didn’t know how to deal with students who have problems. And going back to the baccalaureate, again somehow towards the end, when you had to choose whether extended or basic, again I approached this very teacher to talk to him about the possibilities of writing the extended English baccalaureate. Well, and he straightforwardly told me that “Paulina, you won’t make it. I would suggest you to write the basic baccalaureate.” And it really made me a little sad about that, because I had very good grades in English in terms of, for example, grammar, tests, anything that was written. But I didn’t do well… And there was such a thing that you had to collect points for activity in discussions, collecting points for assignments, etc. And I had twos on that, ones – I think they were then. But I had A’s and A’s on tests, and it balanced out a little bit like that. And he didn’t see that potential in me, that I wanted to learn. And also referring to those strict teachers – why do I remember them well? For the reason that they simply had an agenda to follow. They wanted every student, every student to complete it. And when a teacher saw that he wasn’t managing something, they just came up to me, said, that is, they weren’t afraid to tell me that you should do it this way. And that’s why… Well, and the third group of people were teachers by vocation. It was very few of them. And among others, I just met in my studies too. But one situation – just also English in elementary school, it was already in this public school. The teachers were changing, and it was really a very scary experience for us, because you know, you need to have stability in learning anything. And it was probably the fourth teacher in a year, and everyone hated her, because she – she – was very so strict about how she wanted to teach us, and she was very demanding. And I adored her. I just adored her, because in the end she noticed my needs and she would come up to me after class and explain some things to me sometimes. And that was very wonderful. And I, for example, remember a situation where the kids rebelled, told their parents about the whole situation, that she was putting up ones and twos, and there was a meeting of parents with this teacher, plus the kids came too, and there was a very big discussion. And for example, my dad came to the interview at that time and only another teacher, I mean, another parent was there. And only these two defended this teacher, just because I asked, because she was great. I don’t know what happened really, but then I think the teacher changed again.

[Tomasz]: Okay, Bartek please.

– I would like to say that… It really depends on the willingness of these teachers. If the teachers want to help, they help. Whereas in elementary school it was no one who wanted to know how I should be helped, etc. That’s why I quickly changed schools, because I simply had no support. And only in middle school was it better, for the reason that the educators themselves promised to support me, that they themselves would approach any teacher to explain how to talk to me. Because I was the only disabled person in the school, so it was different. But it’s funny that they themselves don’t realize that they sometimes… that these aids of theirs are a bit exaggerated. I mean, for example, he told all the teachers that I’m supposed to be in the first row, and there it’s not a cool thing, because if I’m the first row, I’m chosen to answer every time. This is annoying very much! Or when the lady is near me, she asks me: “Do you understand me? Do you understand me, what I am saying?”. I’m the one who wants to hide under the table so I can’t see her. Everyone has some specific problems. In contrast, in high school it was much better. That’s because in my class there were four of us in terms of the hearing impaired, the rest hearing. As a result, teachers know how to approach us, they know how to talk to us. And it was also funny for me, just in high school or college, that in my case the professor will always know that I have hearing loss problems, that sometimes I don’t understand what he says, then he always brings me his note, what he said in class and I have so many notes. “Super cool, I’m going to read!” and one day the hearing people themselves have problems and come to me: “give me these notes, because I don’t understand anything the professors say”. Also somewhere in there it makes me laugh. And last – I kept saying: “Mom, I can’t handle it. This lady teacher, she speaks so badly, I don’t understand anything. I don’t know how other hearing children cope, for me it’s terrible”. Mom wondered what was going on. She went to meet with this teacher, came back and mom had big eyes. She said: “Bartek, I don’t understand what this lady is saying either”, also, these are really different, funny situations.

What is your experience with sign language teachers like?

– Thank you very much. I just wanted to add a question a little for the deaf…. What does your… You speak and signaled. Sorry (laughs). What is your experience with sign language teachers like?

– I can.

– Here you go. I have a comparison – Srodborow and Lucka. All the teachers in Srodborov do not signaled. One person a little bit in the system. Accidentally, during the lessons everyone spoke, I did not understand much of it. And on Lucka the teachers all signaled. I already felt very comfortable, I was very good at receiving all the messages, I knew what was going on. Situations that were before, that I didn’t know from middle school, I had to repeat in high school. It was learning without sign language in one period, where I felt a kind of fall and such a rise when I learned in sign language. I think bilingual education is very important. Well you need to understand well, everything in sign language, but you also need to know Polish to be able to do things yourself. I need to be able to read, I need to read the contract, I need to be able to do it. Thanks to the Lucka school, I learned all this and indeed my Polish language developed a lot. Thanks to my wonderful teachers and thanks to the discipline that is there, the discipline of teaching.

– Well, that’s what she was at the Lucka school, they signaled a lot. I was also at the Lucka school for three years, but at that time they didn’t signaled very much. Some of the teachers only signaled. I finished vocational school there. I most like the subject of mathematics. In elementary school in Radom. I took part in math Olympiads and so on. When I moved here to Warsaw, people from Srodborow came and were very weak in math, for example. I mean, in Radom it was also different, but there the math teacher didn’t know sign language and it was very difficult. How to explain it to everyone? “Illiterate people don’t understand anything.” A lot of people were unhappy with this, because he spoke. I started writing, transcribing, solving tasks correctly, he didn’t really focus on me and actually required me to teach other people. Well that was a problem and there was really such discomfort. Of course I liked to explain to other colleagues, but that’s the teacher’s job. Well, I don’t know, he didn’t sort of look within himself, he didn’t try to teach sign language. Now I see that on Lucka it is much better, there is a huge improvement, before it was different. I understand, there are both sides, but it was indeed sad that some teachers did not signaled. Now the teachers signaled, it is much better and there is such comfort.

– Now at the Lucka school, the teachers…. if they recruit teachers, they also require teachers to go to sign language courses. I see that with this, you can teach children in sign language.

– I… Here you go.

– I wanted to say that when I was in Krakow, in Kielce, in special centers. In Kielce, it was often the case that teachers did not sign and, for example, one classmate from another class, who was deaf, said something there, signaled, of course, that she did not understand, that she was doing poorly, but also the same hard of hearing people somehow managed. But there were situations when the teacher did not know sign language at all. In fact, even in Krakow there was a teacher who knew, but somehow didn’t signaled, and sometimes we had to remind him, and then he forgot again.

– Can I ask?

[Tomasz]: Here you go.

– I, for one, wanted to ask if it used to be that children were punished for sign language?

[In common]: Yes, it was like that.

– Well, that’s right. In lessons I always signaled. I like to joke in sign language. Everyone always said that I was in the way, threw me out the door. Well, it’s hard, I stood for five or ten minutes at a time, because, of course, in lessons I signaled too much.

– I also wanted to make a connection. My parents are deaf. They used to tell me, in the 60s, 70s, in elementary school in Radom, in Warsaw, on Plac Trzech Krzyży, not Plac Trzech Krzyży. They told me all sorts of things, that for sign language you got a ruler in the hand.

[Eugeniusz and Marek]: Not much, but it was like that. There were such situations. In the 1970s there could be such situations.

– You weren’t allowed to signaled, you had to speak. My mother used to get a ruler, but not too much, because she could sort of speak out, speak. Well, there used to be punishments, too, there were punishments for that.

Education in their own language. Should deaf people be able to read and write? Is this discrimination?

– I so observe your stories, you tell everything and I have a comparison. I think it’s a good comparison, that for the hard of hearing – just like for the deaf – the basis for education is language, yes? You told that when there was an inclusive class, the level was so (low) that the teachers wanted for everyone, and you didn’t benefit. Just like the deaf. Aga recounted that the same way after going to Lucka school, she had super results, thanks to the language. But I have a question… I recently had one… In fact, this is the beginning of thinking about this meeting today. Such a first thought. I recently met a person who was completely deaf, and as a boss I was supposed to give her instructions to do something. Well, and I gave her the instruction to look for information for deaf people on the website. And she answered me that this is discrimination. I asked “Why?” Because she “won’t read because her primary, first language is sign language.” I say, “Well, yes, but I know that to look for information in sign language is mostly to find CONTACT. That’s one word.” And she retorted. She replied that this is language discrimination and that she would not work for us. So now the question: should deaf people read, write or not? Is this discrimination?

– In my opinion, yes. From my perspective: I can write. It is known that I can write, but I am not proficient in this writing, but I write in Polish and also write and read and also signaled and speak a little. This is the basis of everyday life. Both of these perspectives. I can’t imagine life without one. I get a contract, I can’t read it. He signs it without familiarizing himself with the text. I’m sorry very much, this is not possible! – Maybe you guys have some experience with, for example, “read?”, but one can explain that “I am hearing impaired, deaf and will not read”.

– It is I who would like to add a comment, also related to education. I, for a very long time, did not understand the reading text. When I went to the fourth grade, at that time I had such an average understanding of what I was reading, and the best way for me to assimilate content was for my parents to summarize the whole story to me, like there were some readings or something. And what I’m getting at is that then I somehow spontaneously started reading texts on my own. The kind for small children, for babies at first. Stories, such simple ones, just to get even better at Polish. And in the fourth grade, your Polish teacher was so surprised why I was reading books for toddlers, and not for teenagers already. But my mother trusted that I knew what I was doing. And in a short time I caught up with my reading comprehension. And then my opinion changed, regarding precisely what is really most lacking among deaf people. Just that they could already choose in their free time some favorite book, some shortest story, to catch up as a relaxation, not as an order from above imposed by school. Because, unfortunately, but the Polish language is difficult and we also use it on a daily basis. We are not constantly in an environment of oral communication, but also written. And that’s kind of my comment.

[Tomasz]: Thanks. Gentlemens?

– Me:

– To the board 🙂 Here you go.

– Me thinks, when it comes to reading in Polish, that everyone should go at their own pace. Because I don’t know if it’s comfortable when someone repeats ‘unnatural lip movement’ (pronounced by exaggeratedly opening the mouth). Well, it sounds ridiculous, but I think that individualism is important here, though. At one’s own pace, acquire everything, everything. And that’s why hard of hearing people, at least me, rarely ask for repetition, because most often it’s unnatural.

– I think it’s certainly good for deaf people to learn Polish, but there is just such an individual approach here. For example, now I am learning English, which I still know so little. I have such a teacher who teaches me herself, she approaches me in an individual way, that is, so slowly, she doesn’t rush something, and whenever she notices that I don’t understand something, she explains it to me. And also in such a similar way to approach deaf people.

[Tomasz]: Here you go.

– It was even mentioned at this conference last week that Polish, in the sense of oral languages, should be taught as a foreign language for deaf people. And I agree with that for the reason that, for example, as a deaf person, a deaf child will be born, it is more natural for him to acquire sign language through sight. It is natural for him. And, for example, when such a child already grows up and needs to be taught written language, oral language, it’s already like such a forced way to teach something, so it’s already teaching, not assimilating. And here it was also mentioned at the conference. But also, answering the question. I believe that a deaf person should as much as possible assimilate Polish or there other oral, phonic language, for the reason that this is how the world works. We are a minority: hard of hearing, deaf, although this is increasing, because the World Health Organization says that in 2050 there will be a trillion (billion?) of us with hearing impairment, 50 million I think. It’s very important to just realize that this can work in parallel, that is, learning sign language + phonic language on such a basis that it should be adapted – this learning of Polish and, for example, written language. And also don’t force a deaf person to speak, because it’s not even about speaking in a phonic language, but just to be able to, as well as other foreign languages, English, Chinese, Swedish, etc., to be able to communicate with this to the outside world. Well, because, for example, Deaf people say that they have their own culture, their own world, their own language, and I, for example, accept that, but also not to close myself off to the fact that there is a world outside of that, outside of this Deaf culture, that there is a phonic world, that people communicate. And, as much as possible, people who are hard of hearing or hearing can learn sign language, but we also can’t force them to learn it for the reason that it’s simply like freedom of choice – to want or have to learn these languages.

[Tomasz]: That’s right.

– And I have this question: if there is this CONTACT, then, if it says CONTACT, as you told the stories, well, how would a deaf person prefer? Instead of CONTACT it’s a signaled video, right?

– Well, I guess so, that every section should be signaled.

– Because I started thinking about how it would be different.

– Here you go.

– I would like to say, when I was in a school for the deaf, it was such an environment of the deaf, hard of hearing, and it was such a bubble for me too, sort of.…

[Interpreter]: What’s that?

– …In which one lived well, pleasantly.

[Interpreter]: A bar? A, a bubble! – Well, sort of such a closed environment. Only I only lived in the bubble and very little came out of it. And I got so used to it that once I went outside that bubble, I felt different. It was difficult for me outside of that bubble to …. – …to find myself.

– Well, that’s what … I think it’s important to have such an integration of people who live in this environment, in the Deaf culture, with people who are also hearing. I, for example, thought that there is a foundation in Cracow that organizes very cool, theatrical workshops for deaf, hard of hearing and deaf, deaf, hard of hearing and hearing people. And that’s where all such different people come together at the same time and such a cool relationship is formed between them. I participated in this workshop and you could really feel such magic in it.

[Tomasz]: Great. Here you go.

– I, for example, get the content by email. I don’t understand it. I send it to a translator, I connect with the translator online and then only then I know what the content is. It is known that if these are some important, responsible documents, well then you need a translator so that we understand it exactly.

– I’m sorry, but what kind of interpreter? In the sense of a sign language interpreter? Yes?

– First I send the interpreter to read, and then I connect with him on camera and he explains it to me in sign language, and only then can I sign it. And if I don’t understand and, for example, I have to go to the office, then I have to go with the interpreter. I mean, it’s not about the doctor, it’s about documents and offices. I have a question for you. How do you feel about it in general, that you have to…. As you don’t have to…

– I have to, I have to, because who will help me? My parents are deaf, brother, sister deaf. Well, it’s best for me to have it translated by a translator. This is the basis for me.

– How long do you wait for an interpreter?

– I can call right away, on my cell phone. Well, if, for example, to the office I have to go with an interpreter, well, I have to wait a day or two, so that he has a free appointment. And then I go to the office with him. And so remotely I can talk right away, he will explain to me what is going on.

– For example, if you watch a movie and there is no sign language interpreter, there are subtitles. How do you understand that?

– Subtitles?

– Yes, Polish subtitles.

– I kind of understand subtitles, but you know, it’s different to have such official text, like…. And subtitles is simpler. With official text I prefer to call a translator, because if, for example, I mistakenly sign something, I don’t want to be responsible for it.

– Agnieszka, you wanted to say something?

– Yes. I wanted to refer to the topic of discrimination. It really depends on the person, what they think about it. Also, for example, it depends on what is written in the text. I have to translate it and it’s a difficult situation, I can’t judge it. Deaf people don’t necessarily have to understand written Polish well, but basic words, simple sentences, they should recognize, they should know what it’s about.

– Well, just for example, the employment contract or health and safety regulations have to be signed at work. Well deaf people find it hard to read it. Well it is also a responsibility. Deaf people often take shortcuts. “Did you sign, colleague, did you sign? Okay then I’ll sign too.”

[Agnieszka]: Yes, I agree!

– No no! It shouldn’t be like that, and that’s how it very often is. I know, I’m from the deaf community, I know very well how it is. “Did you sign? Oh, good, well I’ll sign too. Then I sign the same way.” This is very often the case. Do you know about this happening?

– It seems to me that it does. An employment contract, health and safety, even a court judgment, these are texts that are difficult for the ordinary person to understand. But I have one question: do you, for example, watch Polish movies with Polish subtitles or movies with Polish subtitles at all? Do you manage? There are no subtitles in the film. The contract, the caption where… There are no…

– No, no! It’s about the movies. He’s talking about subtitles in movies, not jobs. Here, for example, the question is about movies not about work.

[Interpreter]: When you see subtitles in a movie, is everything understandable, do you understand their meaning?

– It’s best if it’s in sign language, because then it’s so 100% understood, and here with subtitles there’s no such 100% understanding. I prefer sign or both subtitles and sign. And that’s when I can sign it.

– But at least, for example, social media. And I very often, for example, come across comments or posts written by deaf people, well, because they stand out a little bit, though. And I want, leaving aside just this topic, because I understand that, for example, legal contracts or health and safety regulations are very difficult, because even for hearing people they are very complicated, but, for example, such from everyday life texts, that is, for example, just social media, very popular and, for example…. isn’t it also necessary to look at it in the opposite way, that, for example, when you write something, comment on something, wouldn’t you also want to be understood by hearing people? Because I, for example, by the fact that when I didn’t have contact with deaf people, I also didn’t know this grammar of deaf people writing, and very often I had such a problem that I had to concentrate to understand what the deaf person meant. This is such a reflection for deaf people: wouldn’t you also like it to work both ways? Not only that you would be understood by the hearing…, that you would understand the content that is in the world, i.e. TV, civil documents, etc., but also that you would be understood by the hearing. Let’s not hide, but the world is hearing. Social media is also written in grammar, style, phonetic language.

– Then maybe I can answer, what is the issue here? We the deaf community, for us Polish is a foreign language. If we write, the same way we write in sign grammar. Therefore, if you do not understand, we do not understand what is going on, well, yes, but for us it is natural. We naturally write it. The Polish language, the grammar of the Polish language, is foreign to us, and we may somewhere make mistakes in it, not be sure. We are not aware that there is a mistake made.

– I will still refer, but, for example, when I, as a Polish woman, learn English, or there German, Swedish, any language, nevertheless, I care about being understood by these nations. Because I know that if I convey the message in the right way, in a grammatically and stylistically correct way, that way the information will be read the way I want to convey the intention.

– Well, that’s right… often I go abroad, because I am an athlete, but for example, a deaf person comes up and sees that they are from different States. I have no problem communicating with deaf people from other countries. Well, and the hearing people come up: “how is this possible?”. I say, “well you better be deaf”. Well the hearing people have to learn French, English and many different languages. And we have International Sign. We have good communication, we have no problem here. And the hearing people have, they have to learn many languages, and in this we communicate with International Sign.

– In the past IS did not exist, he is new.…

– There was sign language too, the deaf communicated, there was always the international one.

– But it’s more with gestures and now with IS it’s easier.

In your experience of the hearing impaired and the deaf, do deaf people have more knowledge now, or did they have more knowledge in the past?

– This I wanted to add a question, because acutely there is a connection with what I have prepared for myself here. I wanted to ask from history, from your experience of the hearing impaired, but also of the deaf, from the history of, for example, 50, 60, 70 years of life – do the deaf have more knowledge now, or did they have more before?

[Laughter] That’s a difficult question!

– But, listen…

– But what do you mean by “knowledge,” because I kind of do….

– Awareness, life skills, knowledge, more were they able to do more, accept, or less? But I ask that we do not make it so that…. (everyone is waiting for the deaf to speak) just together, right? What experiences do you have? Do you have colleagues, deaf friends, etc.? Do they, for example, look and say: “He has awareness, but half” or “he’s better than me!” or, I don’t know, “formerly grandfather, grandmother capable, but now no more, worse”? How do you feel? I ask.

– A friend of mine told me that deaf people used to read well. Why? Because in the past, teachers used very little sign language, only spoken. Well, and the deaf here were forced, coerced into it. They had no way out. They simply had to learn how to read just lips, write this grammar. True, sometimes they made mistakes, but earlier the level was higher. Now you can see that it has dropped a bit. We read less, we tried less. Before, we were, more so we had to, and now everything is at the ready, we don’t want to and….

– May I? I would also still like to add that I partly agree and partly disagree. I see that it is popular here that everyone has a choice. Why? My parents are deaf and I can see that there is a bit of a difference between us. Why? Because my deaf parents, for example, my grandmother, my grandfather, they taught them: “Remember, you have to watch this, this and this.” And my parents to me that I don’t have to. Why? Because school taught me that, I already know, I can go my own way. Therefore, I see that we have a little different comparison of this situation. In the same way, I know that we here learn the Polish language, yes, the basis of it is, but the young also sometimes do not want to. I know, I am aware of this, so here I agree. And as for the topic of life in general, work, what to do next, we can say that …. I don’t want to brag, but I can admit that we are managing.

– Well, that’s right, the parents and grandparents were deaf before…. they were more oppressed, they had to study, as was said earlier….

[Tomasz]: In Lviv. They came from Lviv.

– That’s the sign for “Lviv.”

– Aha, they come from Lviv.

– And they had a rich history, and their stories are very interesting, Well right here – just like Agnieszka- partly I agree, partly I don’t, and I – the same. It depends, deaf people have an interesting story, before, as it was. Well now there is a higher level. Well it’s hard to compare. The young are also active, they are also intelligent, they have a lot of awareness, we feel the comparison such. Well it’s hard. I think it is similar. In the past, for example, there were no deaf educators, there were only hearing educators. I now feel that it is so equal, that there are deaf educators for children, and when there were hearing ones, it was hard with this communication.

– Well. We have almost two hours of conversation.

[Background]: – Great. A break?

– Do you want a break? And we have three or four more questions.

[In the background]: Then let’s finish…

– No, after the break… Because this is going to be a sharp discussion! We can take a break for 10-15 minutes….

What is knowledge for? What is awareness for? Is it worthwhile to be interested in different things? Is it better to be closed, to have “a world of one’s own”?

– Right. Question one after the break, second half of the match. Question one, to warm up….

– Who is playing with whom?

– …After coffee to wake up. What is it for: knowledge? Awareness? Interest in certain things? Is it better to have your own world? Not to try You guys have talked a lot about trying to develop, to gain knowledge. Is it necessary? You can live a light life for yourself? Please.

– What is the purpose of knowledge, awareness? With this, for example, we can see that in the past, that there will be some such negative situation, then we can avoid it. Also, for example, if we communicate with another person, we know how after such a conversation, such a nice, friendly one, we feel good, or for example…. Well, precisely, similar situations, it will be easier for me in life. That’s it in terms of knowledge. Still what was the question? Knowledge?

– Is it worth it? Is the need?

– E.g. I love to read books. That is, I will not leave it, because I like it. In my free time I can say that this is such my closed world, I have a lot of books, I read them, I just like it. Everyone has their own, for example, I don’t know, the translator maybe likes…. I can’t judge, I don’t know, but maybe, for example, it’s the translator who likes translation, this is also such a closed world. What is it for? A person without interests, without passion, then you can say that it is so boring then.

– Okay, thank you very much, but, please, when answering, discussing, please refer to education, okay? Is it worth it? You can be in your 50s, 60s, 70s and have a hobby – fishing. That’s true. But during education, is it worth the effort? Can you be disabled and have (treat it as) an excuse in life? “And, because I’m deaf. I’m deaf. I don’t understand. I’m hard of hearing, I don’t hear everything,” and let go, don’t get involved. Can one? Why make the effort? What is the point of knowledge, awareness?

– Just reading books is a side effect – having knowledge about the world, also self-development, such personal development And this is also part of this education. Only this is such an informal education already. And it seems to me that maybe we should also talk about it because of the fact that all the time we focus on this education, such formal education in the sense of school, university, but there is also this whole area of this informal education, one in which we learn about life, the world and cultures of people we get to know, all this reality. But precisely… It seems to me that this is a question that has been asked by philosophers for centuries, in fact: “Why do we ourselves want to educate ourselves in school? And why?”. To me, it seems to be a question of this personal development. We, as it were, are more aware of this world, we are also more open to this world, seeing all this diversity, such diversity of all this. But in the case of, for example, this formal education, knowledge – it seems to me at least – is important for the reason that we are simply able to function more in society. E.g. if we know about certain things, for example, we learn the basics of economics, we will be able to use it in real life, for example, managing our own finances. If, for example, we learn … the same as with mathematics, if we learn other subjects, it follows from practice that we need it.

– Above all, we are able to find our way in the world, to adapt.

[Tomasz]: – Oh just ok. Please.

– I think it’s very important to just possess this knowledge, but you also need to be aware in the back of your mind that so what if I go to school, if I develop hard competencies that are needed for work, because in such an abstract way, we finish education and to be able to find ourselves in the labor market, where are the soft competencies? For example, at school they don’t teach presentation, job interviewing, they don’t teach resourcefulness in life and, above all, earning money. Well, who does? So what if I get only A’s, where I don’t know how to make money….

[Tomasz]: Yes…

[Background]: She wanted to say….

[Tomasz]: You would like to, yes?

– I, as a child, went to school, well, because I was curious about the world, and I had this attitude that this was the place where I could fulfill my need to have knowledge. And why did I need this knowledge? Precisely so that I could use it in the future. And how the knowledge is transmitted is another story.

– That’s right, please. Well, right here. What everyone said, I would also like to include that, for example, reading books is a hobby – we can just have such an imagination, live to present a picture, so to speak, such a film, there may be, for example, five hours of such a film, and this book more we can read. And the book does not skip like the film, the descriptions are accurate. And the film there is cut off.

– Off-set.

– Only there is one condition: you need to be able to read.

– Those who try to…

Can disability be an excuse for not acquiring knowledge? “I’m deaf, I’m a retard” or “I’m deaf, I’m a doctor”?

– Well. I so asked – why? Because deaf people – I actually know deaf people from childhood – but I have observed that very often deaf people have a sign of their favorite or disliked: “retard, mattock,” etc., that is, you can say “I am a retard.”

– Mate…

– Depending on the translation. “I am a retard.” “I don’t know, I’m a retard.” I would prefer, as president of the foundation, that a deaf person tell me not “I’m a retard,” but “I’m a doctor, for example.” Well! But will this be done sometime in the future? Imagine, for example, that you go to the doctor, he gives you a prescription and so on, but he can’t read and write.

– Oh that’s right…

– Do you take the medicine, or not really?

– Well exactly, here the example of this doctor, also communication is hard very. Well, for example, just the office is less of a problem, but just the doctor writes, I don’t understand Latin. And it’s like he writes in Latin, I don’t understand him at all. We just nod to each other and there is no communication at all.

[Tomasz]: Theater. We’ll get back to the topic soon.

– I feel completely insecure after seeing a doctor. Communication is very difficult with doctors.

– Yes, with doctors communication is difficult, that’s one thing. I mean something else, that often, especially among the deaf, with hearing people there is little, very little – maybe they hide, maybe they have a secret, I don’t know – with hard of hearing people I haven’t heard, I don’t hear much either, but with deaf people it’s often the case that we discuss or write, and I see: “And I’m a retard, I don’t understand.” Why? It often happens, for example, what Morawski said earlier that the deaf: “You signed? Okay, then I’ll sign, too.” We do not try, no? Why?

– Yes. The effort is not there….

– It seems to me that by the hearing community – I’m not talking about everyone, of course. There are many people who consider deaf people as deaf, primitive, who live outside the margins. Let’s pay attention to what jobs, what education deaf people have access to. So this is already to answer the question.

– Exactly. Here you go.

– This reflection came to me during the discussion, answering this question of yours. It seems to me that deaf people who have deaf families, in the community have and they stick together (together). And there is a kind of crowd psychology, where if someone signs, I sign. Whereas here I see the experience of colleagues, colleagues, is that we had to manage on our own and we didn’t have this identity, this built community, so necessarily we had to fit some frame somewhere. So that’s maybe that kind of answer.

– That’s the question, is that really the case or not? No właśnie. Wiecie, o co mi chodzi, tak? Often extremely deaf group, looking for such excuses.

– They just don’t want to, they don’t want to.

– Yes, I don’t want to and so on. It’s easy to say, “I’m an idiot, I don’t know,” but is that education? Is it necessary – going back to the first question – is it necessary to know, is it necessary to learn? Is it possible to say, “I’m an idiot. Take, translate something for me there.” – I, for example, think that deaf people…. it depends – there are people who can and like to read, so it is known that they can write, have an education, know the grammar of the Polish language. And deaf people often just don’t want to learn to write. The easiest thing for them is to just hire an interpreter. For ordinary things you don’t really need an interpreter. We can get along on a piece of paper, but grammar, endings in words – well, that’s a problem. A problem in the deaf community. But there are those who also can and know Polish, but in most cases they just don’t want to. I can’t point the finger at them, yes.

[Tomasz]: Aga.

– I, for one, wanted to follow up on what you said here regarding the deaf, that they are actually smart, but they are lazy. I, for example, feel that if there is an interpreter, then I feel safer, I am comfortable. I agree with that, but, some deaf people want to be independent. They just want to feel independence. They want and prefer to do things themselves, for example. They don’t want an interpreter to help them with an issue. And some deaf people prefer simply to have an interpreter in any situation.

– Sometimes deaf people are also ashamed, this is normal.

– I, as the Deaf World Foundation, would very much like the deaf to have support, to have all the information, to have all the possibilities, but not to do for the deaf. It often seems to me that deaf people – I don’t know if the hearing impaired too – can take advantage of the situation. You talked a little bit about the fact that, for example, Bartek, that in school everyone was hearing, well, everyone gave you a head start and he learned, but everyone looked: “Oh, disabled. Egg!”. You can learn from the child, from kindergarten, from school, that if the situation is different – in kindergarten one child is deaf, in mass school: either there will be overprotection, or neglected, bullied – in any situation, in elementary school, and so on. Well, and the question… Here you go.

– Now there are a lot of these integration schools, but once in the 70s, 80s there was no such thing. There was a school simply for the deaf, you just went to a school for the deaf There were no integration schools. Me, I think I wouldn’t have managed in an inclusive school. There would have to be an interpreter and so on. There is a school for the deaf, so for me a better alternative would be a school for the deaf.

– It seems to me, I look at your history, I admire that you put so much work to learn, to be able to read, to deal with different situations, to have children, to raise children, to be president of a sports club, to be a lawyer, and so on.

– Yes. I also remember when I was a child, I was in the company of hearing people all the time. Well, and often hearing people called me “mute”, that’s how they teased me. I didn’t know what the word “mute” even meant. “Mute?” And “I’ll give you!” But there were also those who supported me, because I was a very good soccer player. I didn’t understand what they were saying. I asked my father, why do they say “mute” to me? “You can’t read, you can’t speak, that’s why you’re mute.” Oj, well that’s when I got very upset. “What do you want? I can write… We’ll talk on a piece of paper.” The hearers looked at me. “Do you think I’m a dullard? What is this? I am equal to the hearing people.” They didn’t call me “mute” anymore. But I really encountered the word “mute” very often. But now thanks to education and in the deaf community, now deaf people are studying, learning. Now we can sort of match up with hearing people. Well that was my feeling.

Who among you knows sign language?

– The question is, who among you knows sign language?

– It depends, the basis I know.

– You can say the Sign System, or Polish Sign Language, or the basis. You know, right? Right. Do you know Polish Sign Language or the Sign System? System. Two.

– Polish Sign Language.

– Polish Sign Language. Right. Two. Good.

Sign Language System really a bad thing?

I have a question: is the Sign Language System really a bad thing?

[A couple of people]: No. I think not.

[Others]: It is unnecessary.

– There you go. Everyone agrees… (They nod NO in response to the question of whether SJM = bad)

– Meaning I don’t really.

– I don’t agree.

– Means not really.

[Anna]: And how is one different from the other? (Polish Sign Language from the Sign System).

[Bartek]: Exactly… I know what it’s all about, it’s just….

[Tomasz]: Okay, here you go.

– Why the Sign System? Sometimes I don’t like looking at the Sign System. Deaf people don’t like the prepositions “you, on, under, before.” There is no imagination in it. That’s why deaf people like pure sign language the most. Their own language. This is the main reason that there is no such space. It is easier to communicate in Polish Sign Language. But there are able-bodied deaf people who can read and actually use both languages, and sometimes they choose one.

– Okay. Anna?

The difference between Polish Sign Language and the Sign Language System.

– I just wanted to ask, that is, the Sign System, is that more of our phonic language?

– Sign System and grammar, grammar structure, Polish language.

– Someone I want to explain to Ani, what is the Sign System, Polish Sign Language, what is the difference, so in a nutshell.

– I explain, the system is…. Oh dear, once again. Excuse me. Sign System – the basic grammar is Polish. There are no facial expressions, no space, no visualization. There is no body movement. And Polish sign language is more of a visual-spatial language. It has body movement, it has mimicry, it has hand gestures, it has its own grammar, it has its own classifiers, it has its own incorporative numerals, e.g.: zloty, two zloty, one week, two weeks. It has its own grammar. That’s the difference. And in the Sign System there is no such thing. There the basis is the grammar of the Polish language.

– Last question: which one is more international?

– Polish Sign Language is probably closer to IS, to International Sign.

– International Sign Language (IS) is not a language, it has no grammar of its own. It’s actually a borrowing from English and French sign language, borrowing different signs, and it’s such a linguistic mixture.

– Okay, and I would also like to add, to supplement what Aga said: for people who don’t know the difference between the Sign System and Polish Sign Language, that in 1974-1976, more or less, in Poland before that there was only the oral method of teaching, that the teacher spoke, only spoke, and everyone had to learn. That’s why some people used to sign here, that, for example, they got a ruler on their hands, or had their hands tied, because it was forbidden to sign. Later in 1974-1976, more or less, the Sign System was created, which was equally taken with the grammar of the Polish language. Well, and you could say that the deaf had their own sign language, but it was created as a kind of overlay to get along, to teach, to interpret in courts and so on. That is, it was sort of an overlay. But it is not the normal language of deaf people. It is often the case that deaf people say, “The Sign System? Oh no!!!”, they get a fever right away.

[Agnieszka]: I agree.

– Therefore, I ask, does the Sign Language System equal evil or not? Well, and the continuation.

– I will allude to this: evil – it depends for whom. For example, for me ok, because I know Polish. Normally in communication I prefer Polish Sign Language. It is simply more convenient for me to communicate. I can tell exactly what everything looks like, exactly, using Polish Sign Language, and in the Sign Language System it is difficult. How am I supposed to sign it? That’s why I’m more comfortable in Polish Sign Language. But there was a situation in court, there was a Sign System interpreter, and I didn’t want that interpreter. I preferred the Polish Sign Language interpreter. In that situation it was too difficult for me.

– Oh that’s right, in court, a very interesting situation: in court there was a hearing interpreter and one deaf person from the village. Really, the interpreter couldn’t understand this person as she signaled. He could not receive the message at all. It was neither the system nor Polish Sign Language. She simply signaled with such gestures. They rescheduled this hearing. My dad came. He was the chairman once, etc. So he … well dad postponed, translated. Well, it is known, it is difficult. We had to get along somehow, there was a property issue there, dad passed to the interpreter (in Polish Sign Language), and the interpreter only translated (into Polish). And dad understood these gestures of his, his behavior. And so it was really hard for the court, for the court it was surprising. But there are such exceptional situations.

– E.g., in school, in the first grade, was there a Sign System? There wasn’t at all. We just signed and that was it. And, for example, there was no such thing that we were signing something wrong, etc. We just signed. There was no sort of stamp on the hand that this was the Sign System. Around 1974, a revolt against the system began, they wanted to sign Polish Sign Language. But did I sign in the system since I was a child, I don’t know. I was signing – I didn’t know whether it was Polish Sign Language or the Sign System. Nobody told me, I didn’t think about whether it was the Sign System or whether it was Polish Sign Language. I just signed and that was it.

– There are still deaf people who sign into the Sign System and I don’t even feel it. It happens to me, too, sometimes, that I insert a word there, sign. I don’t know. I just sign and that’s it. I don’t know if it’s pure Polish Sign Language. Deaf people sometimes catch among themselves even that someone has signaled something in the system. But in communication, of course, I require Polish Sign Language.

– Wait. Here.

– I understand, that is, this Sign System and Polish Sign Language need to be separated, because in Polish Sign Language, I know when a deaf person asks me when “I’m happy to see someone,” because now I’m not happy. “I’m happy, I see you.” It’s all important, the whole body. So the Sign System can be helpful, but it’s kind of….

– Discarded.

– For a rest I would send.

– But I see you’re struggling with the feeling.

– Here a colleague…

[Tomasz]: Here you go.

– I wanted to add to what Morawski said. Sometimes it happens that we sign something in the system. And I’ve noticed this among people who know Polish well. Sometimes they will sign something, they will mix the system with Polish Sign Language. There is nothing wrong with this. Of course, this is normal. That’s the point: it’s different when, for example, someone completely signs in the system, and it’s also different when it comes to Polish language education It is known that it cannot be translated perfectly into Polish Sign Language. Okay, this is an ok situation for me, but in everyday life – no….

Deaf specialist – but without the ability to read?

– Well, I just asked earlier, would you guys like to go to a deaf doctor?

– Yes I would like to go to a deaf doctor.

– You would like to go, fine.

– But he can’t read or write, he can’t do anything at all. Would you like to go to a doctor? Would he give you good advice? That is, a deaf doctor, he has a diploma, but he can’t read and write.

[Various people]: I think not. That’s impossible. It’s not possible.

– We can imagine such a story.

– There are deaf doctors abroad and this is normal.

– Well I imagine that the doctor would be a great doctor for the deaf, for such patients, simply because there would be no communication barriers and he could help even better, because there would be an even better interview with the patient. On the other hand, I personally wouldn’t go, because I would know that there would still be a sign language interpreter, due to the fact that I don’t know how to sign language, and it would actually be a meeting for three people, not two. Looking, as a patient and a doctor.

– Cool.

– Also communication would be… It would be nice if there was a choice between a deaf doctor or a hearing doctor, because a deaf person, when going to the doctor, communicates with an interpreter, not with a deaf person, so…. It would be nice if there was a doctor, a patient. Okay. Aga?

– Imagine how we would switch. We have a problem because there are no doctors who are deaf or can sign well. We have to take an interpreter. Imagine, let’s swap.

– Okay, what I meant in this question was, do you imagine that there will be a deaf doctor, educated, after studies, after seven years, after practice….

– Well he has to study, he has to gain experience, he has to ….

– Can there be a deaf doctor?

– For example, a deaf doctor, hearing parents, then surely communication is difficult If the parents are deaf, well then the relationship would be easier with a deaf doctor – I have not heard at all, is there even a deaf doctor after the above studies?

– Abroad there are, sometimes there are. In Germany, I think there are.

– Now is such a time of huge change. Now this education is picking up, it’s developing more, teachers can sign. Well, there are areas to fix. Of course, in the future we can fix them, and I think it may be that a deaf person will be a doctor.

– Well, for example, a deaf person dreams of being a doctor in the future…. because there are already deaf teachers. And now, of course, it would be good for there to be doctors, but somehow you don’t see this passion. You see more in pedagogy this passion among deaf people. You need to study for seven years and you can become a doctor. But not many, abroad actually happen.

– Then become a doctor.

– I love sports, I will not be a doctor!

Bilingual education for the deaf

– Truth. In Poland, we have had a problem since childhood, for example, with the ruling, with the doctor, with ZUS ((Social Insurance Institution), with the disabled group, etc. Allocation of education, etc. But it’s true that we, or at least I, would love it if deaf people could be doctors, lawyers, etc. I imagine that great, such a proposal for discussion. Maybe you will say that “you are stupid,” but that from childhood, a child can be taught to be bilingual, to read by signing, to read by sign, and surely, if he wants to be, dreams to be a doctor, policeman, lawyer, he should know that he has to educate himself, thanks to, for example, the Sign System, so that he reads the endings, so that he knows, for example, prescription this, this, this, that up to a certain stage he has to read himself. Right?

– That’s how I think. I think… well…

– Aga?

– I also wanted to refer to this. I have friends, they have children, the children are deaf. And they are really restrictive about this bilingual education, because it’s about development for the future. They can go to the office without an interpreter. Deaf people can talk in sign language. Well this bilingualism gives them this development. But the school should also adapt to this. There should be a bilingual program too. The curriculum should be changed. This is doable then. Without an education program, it can’t be done.

– Right, today we will not change the system. But I wanted to meet, to do a forum so that we could sit down, talk. Not to complain to the Parliament, no? Just to talk, to exchange a little bit, but also so that there would be a video after recording, editing, so that a video that can be shown at the Ministry of Health, at the Ministry of Education, to show what life is like, the real life of people who are fighting for knowledge – There is a lot of folding of different things, it all goes under the table.

– But now it’s a little better. Well, but I know, I know, I know.

– A lot of things are folded, it’s hard with this development.

[Tomasz]: Here you go.

– I’m just sad that deaf people can’t – at least I personally don’t know a deaf doctor, nor a deaf lawyer, as I know hard of hearing people, but well it’s a pity that deaf people can’t do such professions, because we know that they would already be a huge value for patients, also deaf and also hard of hearing, who need better communication, (need) another person who understands their needs.

– I agree with this. Only for this to happen, education is needed from the beginning. Because if we have a deaf child whose parents don’t know sign language – a deaf child can’t hear, he won’t learn Polish naturally like a normal hearing child, so he needs to have some kind of base to be able to learn another language. That is, for example, he has Polish Sign Language first and only then can he learn Polish. Because otherwise there is no point at all It won’t understand. If it doesn’t understand and doesn’t know sign language, it won’t understand in Polish. Therefore, I also think that simply, someone could change everything. Of course, deaf people are smart people. I really think they can be great specialists, professionals. In fact, they can do everything, they just can’t hear, but they need to be given the opportunity to do so, so that they are just given a quality education from the beginning. You also have to give them a little bit of faith that they can. But from the very beginning there is this thinking that “you’re deaf, then you won’t make it in life, you’ll go to technical school, then, for example, you’ll finish vocational school, some kind of profession you’ll have a profession and that’s it.” It’s like they don’t give them a chance in that they can do something more. They can go to universities, they can achieve something.

– As important as this education of the deaf and hard of hearing is, in my opinion, it is just as important to educate the public so that hearing people also know what to expect, because we will not be able to get along so completely. So that one side understands the other, and the other side understands the former. Because these are two different languages, so not only do deaf people need to know how to communicate, but it would also be good for the hearing part of society not that they want to integrate, but that they just notice that there is a need. Because, in fact, not that many such people you meet, on your way, being such, let’s say, an average person, rotating in such an ordinary group.

– In general, I would still like to say, when it comes to the education of schools, in such centers for the deaf, in my opinion, there is simply and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks so – an underestimation of the level of education there. The very fact that there are simply such a mix of hard of hearing, deaf and other various diseases, and everyone has (different) levels, (opportunities) to acquire knowledge at a different level. It’s often someone has good grades alone, someone has low grades. I, for example, when I went to a school for the deaf, everything was too easy for me. Even in English there was such a thing, that they just gave us such too easy tasks, that we just searched for words, such crossword puzzles. So I just didn’t learn English that way. Well, and I have the impression that the teachers just didn’t care.

– À proposing education… À proposing education, I think there are already ready tools – from the West we can draw, for example, in the United States there is a university for the deaf. I was rumored to have flashed the news that the rector is already deaf, right, and it would be possible to draw models from the West. They already have tools available to facilitate education for the deaf, but also for the hard of hearing, i.e. an assistant, some running captioning, i.e. speech to text. Simu… I can’t say in Polish, but speach to text.

[Background]: Simultaneous.

– In any case, these are live subtitles, with spoken words, and I think that from here we can have such a joint forum, later in the Polish forum, but later in the international forum, so as to take the best models that are already practiced in the West.

[Tomasz]: That’s right.

– There was one interesting movie. I watched it. WOW! A woman had a brother who was deaf, she couldn’t communicate with him. How to deal with it? How to help him? She was very worried. There was a theme about the disease. She couldn’t explain it to him. She went to a sign language course, learned sign language, met her brother and started signing. This woman learned at the course and immediately with her brother she had such a good contact, while before there was no contact at all, no conversation at all. And now, when she learned sign language, she was immediately very happy about it and they were very happy with the contact.

– I, I wanted to add that you were talking about the child. I don’t know if I understood correctly that if it’s about the child immediately bilingual education. I don’t quite agree with that. And I am a good example. I sign in Polish Sign Language, I sign in the Sign System, I read, so I am bilingual. When I was little, I was about 9 months, a year…. You can immediately teach such a small child and sign and speak, for example, there are such stereotypes that people say that the child first needs to learn Polish and then sign language, or vice versa. On the other hand, I believe that both languages can be taught right away.

Do you have a profession you wanted to pursue after graduating from school? Do you pursue it because you had no choice?

– Okay, last question. I thought at the beginning that it would be easy, pleasant, at the end, and then I think so, it is the worst question: How do you guys feel, when you finish school, education, do you have the profession you wanted to have? Did you have to go this way?

– Well, that’s right. I finished vocational school as a locksmith. I wanted to be a turner, and then I actually changed direction completely and was a carpenter.

[Tomasz]: Because of the fact that you are deaf?

– No, because it’s been a long time since the choice…. In vocational school there were very few directions, and good, I chose locksmith. For example, women, it’s practically all seamstresses, and now there are almost no seamstresses. Well, and now there is a barrier. In fact, there was no such passion. It was such a loss for us.

– My perspective is that I finished high school as a cook. So I wasn’t too happy with that, and I moved on to office work, in human resources and payroll. And now, this year, I will also be a sign language teacher. And that’s mine, that’s very much to my liking…. And HR and payroll is ok. But as a sign language teacher, I feel most comfortable.

– In elementary school, I was quite an able student. I was painting, drawing. The school principal, teachers asked: “You, Marek, are you working in knitting, at your dad’s factory?”. The teacher did not agree that I should do this profession. They concluded that I had to go to school in Wejherowo. I spread out a map, looked at where the city was. “Oh God! To Gdansk? No, no! I don’t want to commute that far.” And Dad said: “Well, take it easy”. I passed the exam. I went to the first class. I was in the first, there were people from the third. They guided me which class to go to. And so I look that such drawings difficult is all. And “mom, I want to give up. After all, it’s not suitable for me!”. “Take it easy, in time you will learn. Slowly. In the third grade it will already be so easy for you.” That was her answer to me. I thought to myself – good. In the third grade indeed, to this day I love drafting, this profession of mine. Now I already work in the office. For 20 years on the computer. Hearing people are surprised that I don’t hear. “And you have some in your head, and you can’t hear!” – I in vocational school was three years as a locksmith, graduated from this school, went …. they didn’t accept me as a deaf locksmith, and then I started working as an upholsterer, repairing various couches and so on. Then I moved again. In office furniture in production I worked. There again the crisis, this company collapsed, then I worked in cleaning. We have a diploma, we have a degree, and we work in cleaning. Very many companies simply do not accept deaf people.

– I, for one, think that after finishing, for example, dietetics, it gave some tool for education, but the older I get, the more I see how much hypocritical education there is. That is, you also need to be able to think – how to say – independently, such critical thinking, so as not to undermine …. “this is so, so, so.” Because in fact, if you absorb like a sponge, that is, for example, I am a fifth grader, I do not question this knowledge. So my father always told me: “Karolina be the three-earner rather than the five-earner, because the four-earners are the office, and the five-earners will work for the three-earners.” So I preferred to be the three, the average person.

[Tomasz]: Agnieszka – I will comment further on what a colleague said. I wanted to refer to companies, the acceptance of a deaf person for work. “Maybe she is stupid? Maybe she doesn’t understand too much.” This is such a stereotype. I also see a lack of awareness about deaf people. There really are deaf people who are very intelligent, and they are not accepted for work. There is this stereotype.

– Keep it for after lunch. We have the topic of “work.”

– Yes, but I simply alluded to what a colleague said.

– You want something else? Go ahead.

– I generally wanted to say. After graduating from the technical school, and I graduated from the catering technical school, I feel that I will not work in this profession. Even though I gained some qualifications for this profession, I don’t feel fully prepared for it. And now, for example, as I went to college, I know that I only have the beginnings now, because I’m in my first year. I think because of the fact that I was in such a special center before, and compared to when I went to college, I feel such a big leap. And to be honest, after a few months I’m even going to drop out of college, because I feel there’s too much there for me and I think I’ll just take a break.

– Not an optimistic ending. Thank you very much for the discussion.

The Intergenerational Deaf Forum was held in December 2022, within the framework of the “Intergenerational Deaf Center” project. The task was funded by the Ministry of Education and Science.

Logo of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Poland. On the left is the emblem, on the right is the name of the ministry with white and red underlining
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