Matthew Scott Moore

Rochester, N.Y., Tuesday, October 27, 1992


"Know That?" is a biweekly column exploring issues, people and events in the local deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Deaf people use the sign-language phrase "know that?" to mean "did you know that?"

New book bridges cultural barrier

Hearing people’s questions answered

By Greg Livadas

Staff writer, Times-Union

Matthew S. Moore said he’s grown tired of meeting hearing people for the first time and having them ask the same questions, like, "Can you read lips?"

Moore, of Rochester, was born deaf 33 years ago. And like many deaf people, he can conduct a conversation with a person who doesn’t use sign language.

But in an effort to bridge the cultural barrier between hearing and deaf people, Moore, with help from co-author Linda Levitan, has published For Hearing People Only.

The book is actually a compilation of columns of the same name that regularly appear in Deaf Life, a monthly magazine Moore publishes. But the columns – each a separate chapter in the book – are expanded and revised. Some include letters the magazine received with conflicting opinions.

"In the past, people were making photocopies," Moore said. So he published 6,000 copies of For Hearing People Only. He plans to start advertising next month.

The book is already being sold in the bookstore at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Most of the questions used come from hearing people, not only those who write in to the magazine, but those Moore and Levitan, 41, encounter in everyday life.

"I want to help hearing people understand us through the book," Moore said. "I don’t want to talk down to them."

Levitan, also of Rochester, said the book has two goals: "To raise the awareness of the hearing people and to free deaf people from having to answer the same questions over and over and over."

Carolie Simone, who recently moved to Rochester when her husband, Albert, was named president of Rochester Institute of Technology, read the book in conjunction with a sign language class she is taking.

Simone especially liked reading about the history of deaf culture and sign language in the book.

Leslie Greer, who teaches sign language at the University of Rochester, said she, too, has experienced her share of "stupid or naive questions repeatedly every year," such as "Can you drive?" "Can you read?" "Can you write?" and "Can you speak?"

"The book teaches them to understand and be sensitive toward deaf culture and deaf people," Greer said. "I can see the attitudes have improved."

"It is an excellent resource and informative book about our deaf community and culture," said Keith Cagle, who assigns the book to his sign language students at RIT.

"It is a good book for the students as well as deaf people to learn about the deaf community and themselves," Cagle said.

Moore said hearing people who work with deaf people, people who have an interest in the deaf community, those who are learning sign language and even deaf people will learn from the book.

Moore said that he has a four-year supply of new questions that he hopes to include in a future supplement.

Some sample topics discussed in the book.

"Can’t all deaf people read lips?"

No. While some deaf people can, carry on a conversation by speech reading, many never become proficient at it.

Only some 30 percent of all ken sounds are visible on the lips and some sounds, such as the "b," "p" and "m" are nearly impossible to distinguish by watching the mouth.

"What bothers deaf people most about hearing people?"

Answers from readers of the column include: Expressions such as "deaf and dumb;" compliments that end in ". . . for a deaf person;" and hearing friends who do not let deaf friends in on a group conversation or jokes.

How do deaf people feel when a hearing person approaches them in public using sign language?

It depends. Some may resent it if a hearing stranger offers to "interpret" or "help" them.

Even approaching them would depend on the situation. Interrupting them while they are waiting for a bus would be better than interrupting them while waiting in a line at a bank or store.

For a copy of the book, For Hearing People Only, send $14.70 per book, which includes tax and shipping, to: HPO Book, c/o MSM Productions Ltd., 85 Farragut St., Rochester 14611-2945.

–Times-Union, Rochester, N.Y, Tuesday, October 27, 1992

Reprinted by permission of Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

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