Incidental social isolation.

The fond memories tied to the Langley house mentioned in my last post mostly happened outside the house rather than inside it.

My parents made the decision to relocate to Langley in 1995 after my siblings moved out to free me from a life of continued isolation.

Gif of a loop of Milhouse throwing a frisbee by himself.
Me pre-1995.

There, I was within walking distance from my school and eight deaf kids with whom I had varying degrees of friendship.

It was the best thing they’d ever done for me. I could have done without the big house with the 800-gallon fish tank in the rec room, hot tub, pristine living room carpet, a backyard that was a mushroom paradise, and so on.

None of that mattered as much as being close to my friends.

On the downside, it made Mom believe that I was forever indebted to her and Dad for the sacrifices they made. It was her winning ticket to every argument we’d have, even after I moved out.

Life at home was difficult, but at least I finally had a life outside of the house.

It may seem dubious to claim that my siblings and I had a rough childhood when we had as much as we did, but we were all out of the house before we were even legal adults. I don’t think that lends to the idea that living with the parents was tolerable. In my case, once I graduated high school, I was pushed out so that my parents could live out their empty nest fantasy, but that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, from age 3-11, I was socially isolated, and again from 17-now. My social isolation peaked in Montréal, where I had no deaf friends to sign with in the four years I lived there. I still had many friends across the country who were a text or IM away.

The internet saved me from feeling truly isolated.

Comedian Michelle Wolf wasn’t far off with her joke about blogs being “a conversation no one wanted to have with you.” For me, though, they’re conversations I couldn’t have. I don’t have the luxury of starting up a conversation–or participating in them–when I’m out and about.

How else am I supposed to connect with people? Interpretative dancing? Puppetry? Telepathy? Acceptance of Jesus?

I have conversations with myself all the time because I am socially isolated. Then I share these conversations with you. A lifetime of experience is why I’m not finding the social isolation aspect of the pandemic difficult.

EXCEPT!

The pandemic has flooded my social media feed with non-captioned posts created by people who are trying to combat social isolation. Video after video of moving mouths conveying messages meant for everybody–well, except for the deaf community. It’s not just from random people I follow on Instagram, but people who know me in some capacity.

Maybe they figure it’s not such a big deal to exclude one person. Maybe they’re sharing the same sort of nonsense I often share here and have the idea that only vital information needs to be made accessible.

That’s the thing: I don’t even know. I can’t ignore the constant, in-your-face exclusion as I don’t know which videos are inaccessible unless I check them out. All these moving mouths might as well be saying:

“You are not important enough to me.”

“You are not important enough to me.”

“You are not important enough to me.”

YOU’RE MAKING ME FEEL SOCIALLY ISOLATED… ONLINE. Connected online, yet disconnected from a large part of the world? WHAT THE FUCK.

So, when I came across Loni.Friedmann’s post in which she expressed her frustrations in ASL–accompanied by captions that she added manually–my feelings were validated. Since then, hundreds of deaf people, myself included, have shared her post.

Woman wearing a black toque over her long brown hair signs. The caption on the bottom reads: Y'all don't bother to think about our access.
Screen cap of Loni Friedmann’s Instagram post.

I wasn’t the only one who noticed how annoyingly overlooked the deaf community was from the masses’ effort to overcome social isolation.

Now that hearing people are experiencing isolation, you’d think they’d have more empathy for us. Obviously, excluding the deaf community was not something they set out to do, but is it better if the effort to include us isn’t there either? Especially when apps that convert speech into text exist?

We are all in this together, my foot!

Last summer, I witnessed hearing people lose their minds over BC Ferries’ poor communication when BC Ferries had to cancel multiple sailings due to the weather.

It was like, “Okay, I guess we agree that access to information is important.”

Yet the response is often more or less, “Yes, but not for you.” I’m not permitted to get angry for constantly being denied access to information. But the one time it happens to hearing people–and not even in totality? Unacceptable! How can I expect access to everyday ramblings on Instagram when hearing people barely think we deserve access to vital information?

I haven’t been sharing videos of myself signing because my front-facing camera is ruined, and I’m actually more fluent in written English anyway. Though, I did it once, last summer, to ask the signing deaf community a question. Then, I made a follow-up post about it that generated more than quadruple the views I usually get on my posts.

I get it: people hate being left out. Do you get it?

Gif of Milhouse standing on top of monkey bars while the wind whips his hair and the poplar trees in the background. Dark clouds are seen moving overhead.

5 thoughts on “Incidental social isolation.

  1. There’s this double whammy thing too – hearing people can point out when something is suddenly not accessible and dwell on it but when we deaf people point out that something is (constantly) inaccessible, we are somewhat expected to add some sort of positive spin on things or be empathic/patient etc etc or else we seem super angry and that’s a turn off.

    ALSO when people do actually make time to caption their stuff – we are so grateful… but we shouldn’t need to feel that gratitude. It should be expected in the first place… especially if they are friends with us.

    Blergh.

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    1. With that said though – I’m also thinking about ways my blog (and my content in general) is not accessible to some people. Especially blind people. Wanna learn how to make our pictures & gifs accessible with me?

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      1. I actually add image descriptions, and have been doing so for the past year! They’re hidden as an alt text. You’ll see them if you mouse over my images and gifs.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Weird, I don’t see the descriptions when I mouse over the images but I’m glad you are doing that!! I’m going to start doing that too. I’ve done image descriptions & transcripts (mostly for public ASL videos) but never embedded into the images itself. Going to look into this!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. YOU KNOW WHAT? I heavily edited this post THREE times to make it sound less pissy/accusative.

      My mom would also constantly remind me of how lucky I was to have two parents who signed, but she never reminded my siblings how lucky they were to have two parents who communicated with them.

      We’re not expecting *more*: we’re expecting the same end result, just a different method of getting there.

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