The year my life changed

Post by Rachel Coppage, Auckland

Who am I? I’m Rachel, this is my name sign. I was born to hearing parents, where, over in England. I have a younger Deaf brother and an older hearing sister.

There was not much communication, we had to speak orally. Wearing our hearing aids was a must and we had to talk all the time. It was like that in the Deaf Unit, in the Deaf school and then in another Deaf school. All the way through school I was always with lots of Deaf children however we were all oral. We talked and talked with each other all the time. There were a few Deaf children from Deaf families, but they were not allowed to sign. At night, when the lights were off, we were quietly do some fingerspelling as if it was a secret language but that’s all, we were very ignorant really.

I left school at 17, and looked at becoming an AFS (American Field Service) exchange student. I decided to put down America, why not. I arrived and gosh, my host family were all Deaf, mother and father and five brothers and sisters were all Deaf, all seven of them. They used ASL constantly, I thought they would be oral like me. It was a huge shock for me.

That night, I took my hearing aids off, turned my voice off and picked up my hands. It was like being switched on, the door opened, I went through and realised that’s it. I was forced to learn ASL fast, I went to the Deaf unit, experienced interpreters. It all had a HUGE impact on me.

I went back to England after one year, full of sign language, I was like a new person. all my old school friends were shocked because they knew me as a quiet polite person but now I was strong, and I would speak up. My family were confused. I told my brother he must sign but he said no as he was still at school then.

So, looking back, that year was the year my life changed. It was quite amazing really.

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