I hopped up front in my LYFT tonight and said, Hey man! Whats up!. The driver fumbled his words and sounded super muffled. So I looked at him and said, what? Then I noticed his earpiece. He repeated, I’m mute. I’m deaf. It was tough to make out his words but the context clues were there. This was my first interaction with a deaf & mute person.
My first feeling was fear.
Would I be safe with him driving? I had to rationalize for a moment and then land on ‘nah, he’s fine. Just happens to be mute.’
My second feeling was hopeless. Not being able to communicate with him.
When I land in someone elses country I try and speak their language. Why would this be any different? I googled ‘how to say hello in sign language.’ It was easy. Then ‘how are you.’ Also easy-to which he replied.
American Sign Language isn’t hard. And it’s worth learning. I think.
The world is full of people from different places, different religions, beliefs and abilities. I think it’s my personal responsibility to prepare myself to interact with all of that diversity. Sure, I’ll probably never know that much but it’s important to me that I tried to connect with him. I think the instinct for fear is normal. Communicating is one way to get beyond that and see how much like us people are. And how much like them, we are. That was important to me.
I think it was important to him too.