Thursday, July 15, 2010


As I was preparing for my sign language class that was about to begin, two students arrived early. As is usually the case, they each entered, smiled sheepishly and sat down in silence. A few seconds of getting settled and one excitedly begins to speak. Signing awkwardly and speaking at the same time, she begins: “Oh my gosh! I was working on my signing vocabulary last week and you won’t believe what happened!” Becoming excited, she begins to speak at a lightning speed and all semblance of sign language is lost. She and the other student engage in a very animated and enthusiastic discussion while I look on. When she’s finished, she turns me with wide eyes and smiles expectedly. But I haven’t the faintest clue what she’s just said.

I look at her and ask, “So, what exactly happened last week when you were working on your sign vocabulary? It seems exciting.”

“Well, I was …” Again, her frantic behavior and rapid speech made it virtually impossible for me to comprehend any word or sign she uttered.

“Wait!” I stopped her before she went on. “I can’t understand you. You need to slow down. Can you sign it?”

A moment of obvious discomfort later, she shifts in her chair. Finally, she looks up and, with a sympathetic expression, states, “Never mind. It’s not important.”

GASP! NO! NOT THAT! It’s not important to whom? It was obviously important by the body language and facial expressions she used when telling the other student, why would it not be important now? Or does she mean I’m not important enough for her to go through the trouble of repeating it? Be it right or be it wrong, when you say, “Never mind,” and “It’s not important,” to a deaf or hard of hearing person, that’s the message that comes across. “You’re not important enough for me to put forth effort to explain it to you.”

Try to imagine how you would feel if you went to a party and someone tells the most hilarious joke ever at just the moment your child tugs at your shirt and distracts you. The crowd breaks out in guffaws and screams of delight. When finished with your child’s needs, you look up and eagerly ask, “What was so funny?” Now imagine that the only response you get is someone brushing you off while saying, “Oh, it’s not important,” and then abandoning you for others in the crowd who actually know what’s going on. Doesn’t feel so hot, does it?

It doesn’t matter whether what you were saying was some stupid joke you heard from your five-year-old or a grand soliloquy your boss gave before he fired you, if it’s important enough to say once, to, say, a hearing person who is easy to converse with, it’s important enough to figure out a way to help the hearing-impaired person you’re with to understand what you were sharing.

In other words, sign, speak (clearly), mime, gesture, or write, but DO repeat it for us. Let us decide if it was worth all that effort. Because, whether you mean it or not, “Never mind,” can have much the same impact as turning to that person and telling them to go to hell.


  1. Could not agree with you more! It is always easier to just say "Never mind." or "It is not important." I wish more people would make the effort to repeat to someone what was said. It can't be that hard, yes it can be annoying, but think about how the person you are purposely leaving out must feel!


  2. Thats a great life lesson! Thank you.

  3. Can you contact me? I would like to get permission to republish this.

  4. Unfortunately repeating ad infinitum what is said in the wrong communication mode is not much help either. It is vital deaf do tell people how effective communication works for them. Saying you can lip-read a bit is a minefield, better to say you can't in some cases. They will just assume you can lip-read everything. Sign can be dodgy too, heaven preserve us from amateurs, who start getting in trouble and revert to speech again ! I just ask them to write it down in some cases, that is 100% for me. everything else is a complete lottery. The biggest issue is NOT hearing people's communications, but our inability to be honest about our own. I've seen many deaf insist on BSL here and still not able to follow properly.

  5. My deaf son hates that. What is so strange to me is people get bothered when I stop a conversation to clear up details for him. Often they feel free to start a new conversation on the side even though it only takes a second to for me to clear it up.

  6. "Never mind - it's not important" is the worst sentence in my life. From childhood to know. I hear that, most of the time I leave.

    You are in a classroom situation - good time for that hearing girl to learn a little about Deaf culture. She may just be ignorant how hurtful that sentence is.

  7. I hope the student reads this posting. Also, if she hasn't viewed Audism Unveiled yet, that might be a nice "homework assignment" -- watch the video and write a summary of the film...


  8. "Never mind" or "It doesn't matter" which is what I've heard before and talked about in my blog once some time ago. I hate it when they do that. But when they do I just walk away, because if they can't be bothered repeating. Then I'm not bothered trying to follow.

  9. It seems this is a pretty popular occurrence--especially in the deaf/HOH scene. For me, it happens almost every day. It's hard for me to not feel a little neglected or rejected when it happens.

    I'm totally with you guys on the school/student idea. If you're being taught along-side a deafie, the teacher should teach about Deaf Culture and audism. Too many hearing people have never even knowingly seen a deaf person. They simply don't know how to act around us. Well...act the same way you would around any other person, but figure out how to include us, too.

    Good discussions here. Keep them coming.

  10. I hear this daily in my life. I posted the link on Facebook. I hope it will educate people.
    Another irk is when I tell a clerk that I am HOH, then they will begin speaking in a very slow rate, like I was slow upstairs. That is a biggie also.

  11. Mary Ruth, Yes! I get the over-enunciating. Because I can't lipread and it's not an option, I dont have to endure it as much though. I wrote about it in an earlier blog titled, "Brownie, anyone?"