I've had a couple of personal experiences that have brought me here. After leaving school I worked as a teller in the local branch of a building society and one of the first customers I served was deaf. They had some issue they needed resolving but the communication barrier meant neither I or anyone else in the branch could help him. He got upset and very very angry. He shouted incomprehensibly in my face and was signing frantically. I actually thought he was going to get violent but things eventually calmed down and he left, his issue still unresolved. Some of the staff were visibly upset by the incident. I was too - but not upset for myself. I was upset for him. I could only imagine the frustration he must have felt and how isolating the world must have been for him. I took it upon myself at the time to learn at least something in BSL, no official courses, just a few things I picked up of the internet. I learned how to fingerspell, some numbers, and and some basic greetings (hello/goodbye/please/thankyou) and practiced them in a mirror for weeks and weeks in the hope that if such an event ever happened again there would be someway I could help, even if I had to spell out every letter of the conversation.
A few years later I was doing a carboot sale and I saw the same man approaching my stall. I don't think he recognised me and I continued to chat away to my wife as he browsed the items on my table. When he picked up an item I was so nervous that our interaction would end the same way it had previously. He asked my wife 'How much?' but she did not understand his speech just like I hadn't in our previous encounter. Thankfully I had grasped what he had asked and was able to sign 'hello'. and '15' as I pointed to the item he was holding. (i can't recall what the item was now). He looked somewhat taken aback - he was expecting that. His face lit up.
'8?' he signed back. I was picking up on his facial expressions.
'12' I signed back. I couldn't believe this. I was now haggling in a language I'd never even used before.
'10' he signed back (I think - I wasn't sure on that one) but at this point I was so elated that I'd been able to make that connection with him that he could've taken that item for nothing and I wouldn't have cared. I shook his hand on 10 and then as he handed over the cash and tucked the item under his arm I signed 'B-A-G'. he gave me a thumbs up and I passed him a carrier bag for his purchase. We exchanged a final sign of 'Thank you' followed by goodbye and I never saw him again.
Despite having to spend the rest of the day explaining to my wfie how and why I was able to have a conversation in sign language I was so immensely pleased with myself for what I had done.
So reason I'm now on here is because with the global pandemic and everyone wearing masks I imagine the world has become far more isolating for the Deaf. It makes me think and feel how I did when that man left my branch all those years ago. If I can do something to help that then I'll try me best to do it becuase when he slammed that door after our first encounter I never thought 'that went badly because he was deaf' I thought 'that went badly because I can't sign'. and I'm going to change that.