two people signing on a street in the winter

First, A Little Bit About Me

My name is Judy Yang. I joined Populus Group as Payroll Service Specialist July of 2021. I graduated from Gallaudet University last May with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. This is unique place; it’s the only deaf university in the world offering bilingual language in American Sign Language (ASL) and English. This place felt like my second home because there was no language barrier or language deprivation, which helped me feel connected and a sense of belonging with who I am as deaf person. Most people are likely familiar with the term language barrier, which is a barrier of communication between people who are not able to speak in common language. Language deprivation is having no access to language. It means you have no way to communicate, whether it’s for your education, family, community, friends, work, and life. According to Boston University, 90 to 95 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents who don’t know sign language. I’m among them; I was raised by hearing single mother. My childhood was not easy.


Growing Up

I was born in East Lansing, Michigan which means I am ABC, American born Chinese. I moved to China and lived with my grandpa’s sister when I was four years old. Life was very different. One thing that I’ll never forget is in China was I peed or pooped in a bowl, and then one of my family members threw it out of window--pretty different, right! After a year, I moved back to Michigan, then, when I was seven, to a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. There was a better deaf education program for me and my deaf younger brother there. This is when I finally started to learn how to write/read/speak English and use sign language, which took about 3 years to learn.

So for the first ten years of my life, I didn’t know how to speak or write or read in English; even worse, I didn’t know how to use sign language. All I did was watch my family’s or other peoples’ behavior. Sometimes I’d get in trouble without understanding the reason, sometimes I’d laugh along with people without knowing what was funny. There was no interpreter. No one helped me to understand things or give me more knowledge. Can you imagine what life would be like without being able to hear or communicate? Everything is so quiet 24/7. You can’t hear your favorite music, people talking, an alarm clock, barking dog, baby crying. There is no noise. You might feel lonely in hearing world. You might feel it was unfair.


Finding Myself

But everything changed when I was 10 years old. I began to strive to be successful in school; I wanted to one day be successful at work, in my community, I wanted to live believing I can do anything as deaf person, being myself. Everything began to change. I discovered badminton. I loved it! I went on to be a State Champion badminton player in high school, earn my Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, become the President of the Asian Pacific Islander Association at Gallaudet University, hosted events in Washington, DC, fundraised, traveled, did internships, and had a few jobs. I believe you can accomplish anything as a deaf person, just being you. Taking advantage of services available to you can make all the difference. You can show the world who you are, share your skills and reach your goals.


Looking Ahead

I believe it’s important to keep working on myself, to support my mental health to continue to chase my goals and be successful. I’m also passionate about educating people about deaf culture. For example, many hearing people may not know that the term hearing impaired is an offensive and negative term for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. It focuses on what people can’t do; it uses “hearing” as the standard, and implies anything different is substandard, hindered, or damaged. While I think it’s important to share this kind of knowledge, sometimes, it’s tiring.

If you’re readying this and you want to know about deaf culture, educating yourself is the best way to start. It’s the same idea as educating yourself about Black Lives Matter, LGBTQIA+ rights, Latino/a and Hispanic Culture, Asian Culture, Muslim Culture, and anything you want to learn about a lived experience different than your own. Here are a few great resources:

If you're deaf, you know someone who is, or if you're just looking to be a better ally to more people, I want to leave you with a couple of thoughts. We all have goals and dreams. We all have things we're passionate about. I want to encourage you to keep going. It’s okay to fail. No one is prefect. Failure brings us closer to a part of ourselves that can help us to become better. Regardless of your abilities, physical, developmental, invisible and all in between, we're all on a journey to become someone we're proud of. When you can learn more about those around you, their struggles, their challenges and their dreams, we all get better, more empathetic, feel seen and more supported. After reading this post, I hope you learned a little something about deaf culture and the lived experience of being deaf, and I also hope you learned about how many similarities we share too.