March 4th, 2013
Tonight for the first time I watched an episode of the television show “Switched at Birth,” which airs on the ABC Family network. This evening’s episode of the show had all its dialogue ‘spoken’ in American Sign Language only – and, of course, the dialogue was also echoed in captions on the screen for those of us who can’t read sign language. The show enticed me enough to forgo much of my unrelated reading long enough to pay attention to what was happening in the plot. And, as it turned out, it was an interesting and entertaining show.
In what was apparently the first of a two-part episode, the main characters of the show decide to peacefully take-over their deaf-only school in an effort to “keep the school deaf” – reminiscent of the Gallaudet University student take-over/protest of a quarter century ago. Mind you, I haven’t seen the show before but the school administration must be considering admitting non-deaf students as well, or to discontinue operating as a school …or something like that. Anyway, the students decide to hunker-down and maintain their take-over of the school building knowing that the police will be arriving and consequences for their actions will be likely to follow – of which one has to tune-in to part two of the show next week to find out, I presume.
Initially, with the show being ‘spoken’ all in sign-language made me realize what it must be like for deaf people to watch television – with essentially no sound and only captions on the lower portion of the television screen to bring forth the dialogue and the show’s plot. While I may have pondered what it would be like to be deaf, and I have often watched television with only captions and no sound, if not for this show, I don’t think I would have ever stopped for the better part of an hour to realize what it would be like to view television and never be physically able to hear what was happening (regardless of the TV’s volume setting). As we know, with no dialogue, the television shows and stories are nothing but alot of busy images, at least typically. Another thing I realized from the show this evening is how difficult it would be to read and watch television at the same time if one were deaf.
But the show’s references to the Gallaudet University’s student take-over/shut-down made me stop and remember a couple of other things that were on my mind during the time of that protest of the mid-late 1980s – when I also lived and went to school in the D.C. area. The reference on the show reminded me of the question in my mind at that time was whether the on-going happenings at the nearby university were the Gallaudet student’s display of their respectable resolve or merely a display of the student’s discriminatory intent to essentially shut down the school because the newly appointed university president was not deaf – albeit maybe a discriminatory intent for the university’s board not to name a deaf president. Though, not being deaf and as the university was/is intended for those that are deaf and yet the university had never had a deaf president, maybe I was not one to judge. But as I recall it was an interesting circumstance of events. (The other memory the show evoked will be a blog entry of its own in the next few days so as to not detract from this blog, to which I will post a link here.)
But, anyway, getting back to tonight’s “Switched at Birth,” the show was enlightening, thought-provoking, and entertaining. I am interested to know how the episode ends next week. Kudos to the show, its cast, and to ABC Family network as well for this enticing display of such a unique perspective to the viewing public.
ABC Family “Switched at Birth”
Deaf President Now
ABC Family’s ‘Switched at Birth’ ASL Episode Recalls Gallaudet Protest
If My Hands Could Speak…
...they would say something profound.