This may have been one of the most rewarding nights I have been out at work.
Yes, it started with the usual drink casualties – but then three lads came in wearing ties. I was DJing at RETRO Bar on commercial street – reggae & dub – and in the small room it became apparent that all three of the lads in ties had just come from a wedding and that they were speaking in sign language.
I have to say, that as someone who has had limited experience of playing music to people who cannot hear it came as a bit of a surprise. After my DJ set, I parked myself at the bar and tried to introduce myself to them. I turns out they were a right laugh.
The first lad I spoke to (A) works as a support worker translating between hearing and sign. I asked him how I can be more ‘deaf aware.’ He said that the best way is to first treat them as a person, but try and get them writing on a piece of paper so that you can have a conversation. We got Talking – this was possible because he had a cochlea implant – and I soon found out that most people are not Deaf Aware at all – they take the fact that all people can hear as granted. This was a bit irksome. As someone who suffers from a disability I found the fact that I was slightly out of kilter with a sufferer of another disability to …. well, unsettle me: I just want people to make life as easy for everyone as possible.
(A) & I got talking and he mentioned that there are accents in Sign Language – something I was completely unaware of. I am all up for open access of information.
It really was a pleasure to have a conversation with (A) – he described himself as hard of hearing / deaf. He cannot hear out of one ear and has a hearing aid in the other. He said that if I was to try and have a conversation with one of the other lads I would not understand them – (A) was well spoken. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I went to shake one of the other lads hands.
I immediately forgot what (A) said and got a bit flustered – worrying that I had upset the new lad. We had a drunken smile and then I remembered what (A) said. I asked the barmaid for a piece of paper and so started our conversation.
We introduced ourselves – his name will remain hidden as this is an anonymous blog – let’s call him (K). (K) and his mate (J) had both been ushers at a wedding today (I write this blog drunk and swaying).
We got talking about music. Something I thought I would never do with somebody who cannot hear.
It turns out that that people who cannot hear can still feel the bass of the music in the floor and in their belly – (A)’s favourite genre was Drum & Bass – plenty of bass kicks and bass wobbles for them to feel. Whilst the people who can hear, can hear the vocals – voice does not translate well for those who are hard of hearing on the dance floor.
(K) & I got talking (on the piece of paper) and I told him about the three years I was hard of hearing as a child – this led to my love of field recording and music as an oeuvre. He said that his mum had German Measles when she was pregnant so that is the reason why he cannot hear. This means that he has never heard bird song.