Meeting Deaf People Around the World | 2019

Another year has passed! It’s now a new decade, 2020. Time, you’re unbelievable. In case if you are new to this blog, I like to meet diverse Deaf communities around the world. I write a post almost every year about different Deaf people that I’ve met while traveling: 2018, 2016, 2015. I didn’t write one for 2017 since I was juggling between work, grad student and internship. I ain’t had the time to travel or socialize. During the year of 2019, I didn’t really travel much as 2018 but visited few different US cities like Los Angeles, Rochester, Washington D.C. and Phoenix. And then my motherland, Mexico. These places are already familiar to me (except Phoenix), but meeting the Deaf communities made it all worthwhile. Following the rest of this post, all are in chronological order (except Los Angeles):

deaf asian
Credit: RIT Asian Deaf Club. ID: 6 Deaf Asian & Stacey is sitting at the circular table at the banquet. All are smiling at the camera.

Rochester, NY

April 2019

At the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology / National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID)

Hitting two birds with one stone by attending the RIT Asian Deaf Club’s 30th anniversary banquet. 

New York City, Rochester, and Syracuse. 

meeting more of other Deaf communities (Latinx, Black, etc.), visiting a Deaf-owned business in NYC and ASL Slam event in NYC. 

I never thought I’d be visiting Rochester, because all I know about that city is a host to the largest technological college in the world for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, etc. It’s called the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) which is a a college within the same campus of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). I didn’t think I’d visit, because one, I don’t know anyone there (but know some who did study there). But my Deaf boyfriend, who is an RIT alumnus, was a keynote speaker for RIT Asian Deaf Club’s 30th-anniversary banquet. He shared his experience about how travel shaped his Deaf & Asian identity. And of course, in the name of love, I paid my flight out to go to support him and to meet the Deaf communities there. Hey, two birds, one stone, right?

Being born and raised in sunny Los Angeles, I was the only one who was wearing a parka jacket in 30-degree weather in April. Half-naked young White men were playing soccer out on the field in the morning with their shorts like it was 90 degrees out. One of the Deaf employees looked at my brightly yellow parka jacket. “She’s from Los Angeles,” Jason chimed in with his amused smile. The employee chuckled, “I see.” Ha. ha. Jason guided me around the campus, sharing his memories with me. I was in awe when spotting some accessible digital arts and Deaf clubs like these: 

black deaf community
ID: The door is painted with red, white and black stripe, "Ebony Club" with a black fist pump. Different hashtags are shown
digital graphic of sign language
ID: an GIF (moving) image of an animated sign for "pizza" with "ZZ" sign on TV.
deaf lgbtq people
ID: The wooden door has "Deaf Queer Alliance" and decorated with differnt arts.

I attended a local community college and a university that have the largest Deaf programs in the state of California. During my time there, there was no variety of Deaf clubs like these except the typical one: American Sign Language (ASL) club. I wish I had clubs like these to find a connection within my own identities. During my visit to RIT, it was Deaf Asian Week (hence the Asian Deaf Club’s banquet). I visited one of the Deaf Asian Club’s night events about different Asian sign languages. Some Deaf international students were showing different sign languages (video is shown).

Some of the signs were familiar to me; it bought me back memories when I was traveling in Asia. I love how some of them know more than two languages: English, American Sign Language (ASL), their local native language (such as Indonesian) AND their native sign language (such as Chinese Sign Language – CSL). To think that many Hearing people believe Deaf people couldn’t learn languages – this isn’t true. In case if you didn’t know, 

*sign language is a language & there are different sign languages around the world*

If you’re interested to learn more about Deaf culture, read this page

Video Description (VD): A video shows three Deaf Asian students who are showing how to sign “I love you” in different sign languages (Korean Sign Language, Japanese Sign Language and Vietnamese sign Language). 

Of course, the majority of Deaf people I’ve met that week are Asian. We shared stories and chatted over bubble teas, cooking homemade hotpot together, etc. With some of the people I’ve met, I felt comfortable showing who I am. If you have social anxiety, you probably understand the feeling of having those moments where you’re not having social anxiety. It feels quite liberating (although it doesn’t always happen in every social situation). 

I happened to meet a famous Deaf Indonesian who is an actor. We chatted and chortled over about trying to hide our identity sometimes. I met this young Deaf Asian woman who loves Japanese culture and learned Japanese Sign Language (JSL) by befriending Deaf Japanese people. I met a Deaf Filipino-American who owned a 3-D art business. I met a young Deaf Chinese who shared a bit about his life with me who didn’t learn Chinese Sign Language (CSL) until he was emerging adulthood and moved across the world to RIT for accessible education and connection. He had to learn ASL as well too! I met a young Deaf first-generation Bangladeshi-American woman who shares her love for Bangladesh and fought her rights for education. Their stories made me realize they’re one of the most underrepresented voices. They’ve been silenced for so long, even by other marginalized communities. This is by far one of my favorite memories with the Deaf communities.

univeristy for the deaf
ID: Stacey is posing and smiling sideway. Behind her is a dark blue that says Gallaudet University with their logo

Washington D.C.

April 2019

Galladuet University, Signing Starbucks

Announcing the meet up in DC, going to Signing Starbucks and visiting a local Deaf event at the bar. 

Within the same district (the DC), I wish I had more time to visit diverse Deaf communities, including Deaf Latinx community and different Deaf professors.

meeting more of other Deaf communities and attending local Deaf events.  

It is believed that Washington D.C. is home to the largest Deaf population of the US (although others claim that it is Rochester). Some Deaf people say it’s the city for Deaf people. However, from what I’ve been learning, it’s not true for all Deaf communities. Seattle seems to be the city for the DeafBlind community. If you’re visiting DC to meet Deaf people, summer isn’t a good idea because there is nothing but tumbleweeds (who could resist a vacation?) unless there is a big event going on. I’ve learned this when I visited during the summer three years ago. 

starbucks with sign langauge
ID: A roll-up banner of Starbucks's welcoming customers: "Welcome to the Washington D.C. Signing Store" followed by images of the employees and Starbucks logo.
sign language arts
ID: A mug cup is shown up close to the camera. It has green hands with a gold star in between the two hands. It's an ASL sign for "Starbucks."

This time, I was only here for a few days again and visited the US’s only Signing Starbucks where several employees are Deaf. I happened to see a well-known DeafBlind, Jasper Norman, a ProTactile teacher who advocate for the DeafBlind community and one of the cofounders of ProTactile Theatre. He shared his experiences of meeting the DeafBlind community in Europe and pointed out the privileges that we, Deaf sighted (like me), have. Although we, Deaf people, are marginalized, the DeafBlind community experience the discrimination from many Deaf people, not just Hearing and Abled people. I’m really glad that the awareness about the DeafBlind community is spreading and the space for them is slowly growing.

ID: A group of diverse Deaf people is standing & sitting on a small stage. All are smiling at the camera.

I don’t normally host a meetup but I tried it twice in Malaysia. I’ve thought of trying to have a meet up every country but didn’t do it since then. Since I was visiting Washington DC, I thought of trying it there at Gallaudet University (not affiliated with them). I was initially hesitating about it, but I decided to try it one more time and announced it on my social media platforms. As the date arrived, social anxiety started to kick in. Then I’d get even more anxious for thinking about being socially awkward. I tried my best not to show my anxiety but I later become a bit more relaxed as I engaged with the attendees. I tried my best to have this space where people can not only ask about travel but to share their travel experiences too. Some students are from the US and some are from other countries like Israel, China, West Africa, etc. There was a moment of tension when someone stated a stereotypical perspective of Asia; I validated those who were offended and tried to ease the tension. Not sure if I did a good with that.

At that very moment, I could see some of the looks of people’s faces to share my experiences regarding the stereotypes in Asia. I thought of the Deaf people’s stories who I met in Rochester. I thought about my experiences in Asia where I learned that the stereotypes were far more complex than it appears to be. I told them, “despite traveling in Asia, I’m not the right person to explain this, because I am not Asian. I am a mere visitor and foreigner. All I can say is that stereotypes are not always true, and it’s so much more than that. It’s the space where Asians should speak out on this, not me.” Although I felt my heart beating during that moment of tension, this was a learning experience for me to manage my social anxiety. The meet up wasn’t perfect in some ways but they’ve reminded me why to meet up is also beneficial. Thank you to to my dear friends who helped me with this event!

deaf women community
ID: A close up image of a promotional Arizona-shaped of DWU. The background shows a red sun shining on the horizon behind the cactus. date, location and hashtag relating to the conference are shown

Phoenix, Arizona

July 2019

Deaf Women United conference

by attending Deaf Women United conference alone. 

I missed meeting one of the DeafBlind attendees at the conference that I was hoping to meet. I also hoped to meet the Deaf Indigenous community in Arizona but didn’t have the time.

A conference was held in Phoenix by Deaf Women United (DWU) where I could meet and connect with many Deaf women from all walks of life. As a feminist and in need of women’s space, it was much needed. I have to tell you this though, it was not a smooth journey for me. When the dates drew closer, I could feel my chest clenching from anxiety. The thought of not knowing anyone there and being a socially awkward person at times, I felt myself dreading it. I was thinking of skipping the conference, although I know I shouldn’t miss it. Instead of running away, I talked to my therapist and loved ones about my anxiety.

When my anxiety arose high at some points during the conference, I head to the bathroom to take some deep breaths. I felt embarrassed because I couldn’t help to think if I was obvious to some people but this was the journey that I needed to face. I reminded myself that my expectation of myself isn’t realistic, and how it was okay if I couldn’t meet several Deaf women as I originally expected of myself. 

deaf women organization
ID: Women are smiling and cheering with hand waves and "I love you" sign. All are sitting and watching the show. Two projector screens are shown on the both side.

I did meet a couple of women throughout the conference, but there are some who I actually engaged more than once that leave such impressions on me. Three Deaf women who are my roommates at the hotel, a Deaf woman who works with Deaf refugees in the midwest, and I met three other wonderful Deaf women from San Diego, Seattle, and Tucson. I went out to the bars with some of these women where we danced and chatted into the night. We shared our struggles together because there was something about them that I instinctively felt secure with them. After I shared my struggles, one of them said something that really hit me: “I’m glad you’re still here,” she said with the shock and sadness in her eyes. I think it was something that I really needed to hear since I was having a difficult year.  

On the last night of the conference, apparently, I unexpectedly was called on stage for the “Deaf Women of Achievement Award.” I was quite shocked and tried to control my shakes on stage to give thanks. After heading back to the table where I sat with my roommates, different emotions were coming up inside. “Are you okay?” one of the roommates checked in with me. I hate crying in front of others but I couldn’t help it. I think I really needed the support system right there. They didn’t appear as if they’re judging me for sharing my vulnerability. My feelings weren’t outright dismissed. These women, who I’ve only known for two days or four days, they listened. They didn’t look awkward. They didn’t run away. It was nurturing to have their support as if they’re watering to feed the seed inside that I’ve been neglecting. I felt that my soul was seen somehow where I feel comfortable with being who I truly am. These women, they gave me support, hope, and empowerment. Empowered women empowered me. These women really leave a special place in my heart. I realized how much we, Deaf women, really lack a space like this. I am really glad that I went.

traveling mexico
ID: A selfie of a group of Deaf Mexican and one Deaf Asian. All are smiling at the camera.

Mexico

October – November 2019

Guadalajara, Queretaro, Mexico City (CDMX), Puebla, Oaxaca and Chiapas.

networking, getting DM on Instagram to meet up, googling Deaf-related cafes, 

I wish I’ve met more Deaf people in Oaxaca, Queretaro and Chiapas. There are a Deaf program in a local university in Queretaro city (or so was I told), a Deaf soccer team, etc.  

Meeting the Deaf communities in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Yucatan and Quintana Roo. 

There is so much to say about this because it wasn’t just a few days’ visits. I’ll write a separate blog post about my experiences with the Deaf community there. Although I visited Mexico a lot growing up, I never had met my community there. This time, I get to meet them. Since I have been wanting to learn LSM (Lengua de Señas Mexicana, also known as Mexican Sign Language) for years, I learned basic LSM before my trip and was eager to learn more while socializing with different Deaf people there. A lot of them don’t know International Sign,* so I’d communicate with them through LSM, gestures and Google Translation when needed.

I met a Deaf Mexican activist, a Deaf Oaxaqueño artist, a Deaf couple who travel locally and post vlogs on their Facebook page, Deaf people who work with the police, a team of Deaf female soccer players and more! The adventure in the motherland was just exhilarating, and their stories made me proud of being Mexican. I was really sad to say goodbye to them. I can’t wait to go back soon again and hopefully it will be during the year 2020, even if it’s short.

Los Angeles

I live here.

Calvin and Jessica are both Deaf content creators, so I know them through social media. As for Kevin & Lia, I saw their interview with one of the Deaf news. I contacted them directly.

Los Angeles is considered to be “the
hub for Deaf content creators,” according to few people. I need to meet more diverse Deaf people here but it’s actually difficult (in comparison to DC or Rochester).

Los Angeles isn’t in chronological order since I live in Los Angeles. I met different people at different times throughout the year.

One of them is Calvin Young who is a well-known Deaf traveler in our Deaf communities (I think we don’t have a photo together?). Along with my boyfriend (who was also a travel blogger called, Nomadic Deaf, but now focuses on fitness & nutrition), we all had a chat about being traveling as a Deaf person and what is it like of being a Deaf content creator. We shared the challenges of being a Deaf content creator. As Deaf content creators, we have to strive harder than Hearing content creators.

content creators with disability
ID: A selfie of a Deaf group. An Asian male (on the left) with three females on the right are all smiling at the camera.

Along with Jason and Lilo (who previously shared this blog with me and now has her blog), I met Jessica Flores! She is a Youtuber who creates funny and sarcastic videos about Deaf people and Deaf culture. I love the fact that her on-screen personality is the same in person. I love how all of us are content creators. It was nice to have this because I see a lot of bloggers meet up events who are all Hearing. I don’t have the access to space where there are all Deaf or even meetings with some Disabled people. We need a space where all Deaf content creators come together.

deafblind traveler
ID: Stacey is standing in the middle with a DeafBlind male and a Deaf female at Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. All are smiling at the camera.

Kevin Southworth & Lia Chapman! Their name sounds so good together for some reason but they aren’t a couple. I met them in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. Kevin Southworth is a DeafBlind traveler, and Lia Chapman is a Deaf traveler and Support Service Provider (also known as CoNavigator). She travels with Kevin and interprets for him through ProTactile ASL. Kevin have a Facebook page to share about his travel. I asked if they’re interested to share their stories because I believe their story can impact our communities (the video is here).

All of these moments I have with the Deaf community this year reminded me why I love meeting Deaf people despite having social anxiety. Being Deaf isn’t something I see as an obstacle but a life. This year, I do not have any plans to travel internationally (unless some opportunities arise). The majority of my travel this year is domestic, maybe only the familiar cities again. My goals for 2020 are to refocus on my blog, Deafinitely Wanderlust, and to make & save more money for 2021! 

traveling as a deaf person

Hover the image on the left, you can repin this post if you can relate or enjoy this! 

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

Close Menu