Medicine X 2015: “Deaf Gain: what can healthcare…gain from the deaf community?” Benjamin Bahan

Good afternoon I’m here today to discuss
the concept of deaf gain you may wonder where this term
comes from. [pause] This book was published by a colleague of mine in my department
the Department of American Sign Language in-depth studies we look at dash gain as
something that raises the stakes of what it means to be human and this is in fact
a recognition of the value of having deaf people on the earth this is yet more biodiversity but I’d
like to talk a bit about where the term came from there was an artist by the
name of Aaron Williams and in the United Kingdom who was a performance artist
very well known it grew up and being unable to hear and when it ended doctors
audiologists and all of them told him that he had lost his hearing so as he
grew up he began to reflect that nobody had ever told him that in losing hearing
he’d gained deafness this was somewhat puzzling points he began to wonder why
so many parents upon finding the child was deaf the first thing they heard their
child was deaf and now this is very different than somebody who loses
hearing later but a child who is born deaf immediately when children are born
these days they have hearing screenings and the results are found in the
doctor’s common tell their parents I am so sorry your baby as failed his hearing
test the parents are notably shocked upset and scared the baby only one year
into the world has already failed this has set them up for failure this
concept is astounding why why do we apologize for a child being deaf why do
we consider that they have failed what is it that deafness truly means? Does it
that mean that at the child cannot communicate because they can’t hear?This is perceived as a loss––hearing loss it’s thought of as the notion that because of
hearing loss they will have a loss of communication. This is what’s envisioned
of these children. And in fact, this concept this conception and perception of hearing as being equated to the ability
to communicate one who can hear and can talk and communicate. But the truth is
deaf people who sign are thought of as signing because they cannot speak but in
truth communication and speech are not synonymous. So, if a person is sign, is a
signer than these things are usually housed under departments such as the
communication disorders, American Sign Language classes throughout the country
are often not found and language departments they’re usually found in
communication disorders departments speech and language departments so
what’s happening here is that we have created a paradigm that is of great interest. Consider for a moment that the whole thing is a misperception and a
misconception. Deaf people sign because all of you the vast mass of humanity gesture. We
have taken gesture that exists naturally throughout this span of human experience selected from that, built upon that, – language. Look at the pictures in
front of you I am going to give you a gestural story based on the pictures
you see in front of me so follow me here ok. Now you’re cheating a little bit
because you’ve got the visual cues to the side, but I’m about to share a
story. You see, you all got it did you? Did you
get it? Were you able to follow that? More or less? Now if you couldn’t follow me really this is an indicator of your gestural illiteracy. These were basic gestures and if you’re
unable to follow it, really we take these gestures week compound them in a string and create stories and language. So in fact there is something gained for humankind. And this is the paradigm shift we need. So you are all users of gesture with in your life
span we as deaf people have taken that developed from had a complex and rich
linguistic system that is no longer bound to gesture but it is a language
equivalent to any spoken language this represents a gain for Humanity not
merely again for deaf people imagine for a moment if you would if all of you in
this room could sign you use gesture day-in day-out in fact many of your
computer interfaces are gesturally based. you pinch to zoom in and zoom in zoom out these are based on natural human gestures think on that but it’s not merely that
consider the movie Minority Report where in Tom Cruise is using these
gestural interfaces to interact with the computer data now he’s using gesture in
that but this use of gestures is somewhat limited. think though if this character
had been able to interface with the machine using sign language so much more rich and profound. American Sign Language is designed is the best fit for those
using visual physical spatial dimensions so it makes perfect sense if you’re
discussing anatomy and physiology to do so in sign language imaginable doctors
could do so if we were talking about blood vessels and so forth observe as I
show you that conception is clearly depicted
through the use of sign. people have discussed at some length that those who
sign and the language of film are closely related there are many parallels between the
language of film and the language of sign in discussing the path of the
circulatory system I can use a tight zoom a close shot a wide shot to go into the
blood vessel go into it and see it path and then you see it progressing as the platelets and serum go through the circulatory system you see here the blood cells moving along through the blood vessel
until they come across an obstruction which then must be moved to improve blood flow these things can be explained in depicted so well if
you sign clearly there is no need for animation in your presentation you can
present the information clearly and depict it in the surgery that is upcoming for a
patient to be depicted clearly for a patient there are advantages to be seen
here and the fact that you all do not sign represents the true loss. And in that book of deaf gain their are a number of advantages noted for those who have grown up
signing there are a number of processing advantages facial processing advantage
memory processing advantage motion processing advantages to be found bilingual advantages all of these and
advantages are part of this notion of those who have grown up signing using a
visual spatial language or quite adept at memorizing spatial orientation in a
number of things like this and and we have compared deaf and hearing
person’s deaf who sign in those who do not be we marked advantages for those
signers Now your use of gesturing communication has
been present for a long time and this in fact requires eye contact you cannot in fact observe the gestured communication without that eye contact that face-to-face
contact creates connection when we’re looking at each other and talking to
each other we connect more rather than imagine that person who’s lost in their
phone or device and unable to relate to the person they’re speaking to so if I
ask you how you are I’m observing directly your responses we touch each
other more we see each other more imagine if doctors were able to use this
what advantages and gain there would be in France there was a corporate
communications specialist by the name of Bruno Khan who engaged in a great deal
of study in order to be able to train corporate communicators CEOs and I like
to give them tips on communication in fact the community he studied we’re
deaf people looking at the efficiency of their communication and
how we could capture these communicative skills and communicate so much more
precisely than does then do hearing people and so he trains and consults
with these corporations and he learned these communication techniques from deaf people this is quite startling too many people that can’t possibly be true but
it is because the concept that is largely at play in people’s mind is the
deaf people cannot communicate but let us ask what can health care and society
at large gain from the deaf community your notion of communication is skewed
and many people see deaf people is having a communication disorder but the truth is deaf people
are some of the best communicators that exist because we communicate using
multiple strategies day in day out how all of our lives we take this
variability in communication for granted we are constantly creating and using
different strategies to communicate with others around us in the world when we go
to the store to go shopping or during fast food there are a number of
different visual indicators for the the menu I can point to the number I can
gesture I can point to the order number two but very often the cashier when I
pointed and simply just heard the number two are in a loss begin to speak to me
and unable to understand a simple gesture like right up there number two and really so finally I’ll
have to get a paper write the number two on a piece of paper and they finally
get it but the truth is this represents the gestural illiteracy at large in
society deaf people are adept communicators
because we do so every day of our lives this represents notion of deaf gain that
could benefit all of you and the fact that I’ve walked out here on this stage
and begun to give my presentation in sign perhaps I’m already seen by you as
a failure you just didn’t get it if so I’m very sorry for you


  1. The captions need to be changed – the first sentence says "death gain." Please change it to "deaf gain." Thank you.

  2. This video is difficult for the eyes to understand all the signs, when the camera pans out. When you have a signing presenter, please have a neutral, solid color background, with no pattern, and please keep the camera focused in on the presenter. When you pan out and have the longer distance view of the stage, the signs are smaller on the video and difficult to read. You can look up deaf vlogs to see how it's done for ideas. I know it's routine for you to focus in and out, and that works great for presenters who talk, but for those who sign, it doesn't work well.

  3. Could not get captions to work. I am not sign impaired, but found it difficult to follow the signs due to annoying camera games. The background was also an assault on ASL-eyes.

  4. To all commenting about the captions, those are not actual captions, they're Youtube's auto-generated captions based on speech "recognition." If you ever see the "((( )))" symbols at the ends of the captions, that denotes auto-generated captions are being used. Nobody has submitted an actual subtitle/caption file to be used with this yet, it seems.

    Ironic that this video is not Deaf-friendly either, with the constantly changing camera angles. Other than the audistic nature of the video formatting, the presentation is excellent.

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