This Entire Neighborhood Secretly Learned Sign Language To Surprise Deaf Neighbor… And That’s No Easy Feat
Sure it was part of an ad campaign by Samsung, but it was also genuinely remarkable: the neighborhood of Bağcılar, Istanbul in Turkey learned sign language as a surprise for one young adult who is hearing-impaired.
Muharrem thought it was going to be a day like any other when he and his sister went about their regular routine: Stopping for bagels, buying fruit from a street vendor, taking taxis… even bumping into other pedestrians on the street.
In other words: All the makings of a totally normal day-in-the-life.
Muharrem encounters people around his neighborhood who all seem to mysteriously know sign language. (Photo: YouTube)
Except one thing was very, very different for Muaharrem, who is hearing-impaired. Every single person he interacted with that day spoke to him in sign language, from the bagel shop employee who let him know the bagels were hot to the apologizing pedestrian to the gregarious cab driver.
Samsung spent about a month teaching the town’s residents sign language (and also strategically hiding cameras throughout town to capture Muharrem’s reaction). The ad, called “Hearing Hands,” was created by Samsung Türkiye and the advertising agency Leo Burnett Istanbul to promote the cellular agency’s new video call center.
Above all, those are some dedicated neighbors, as learning sign language is no easy feat!
A neighbor spills the beans on the cameras to an obviously touched Muharrem. (Photo: YouTube)
According to the University of Vermont, “American Sign Language is the primary language of an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 Americans, including deaf native signers, hearing children of deaf parents, and fluent deaf signers who have learned ASL from other deaf individuals.” Sign language is not universal; each country typically develops its own form of sign language corresponding with that country’s spoken language. (In the United States, for example, American Sign Language, or ASL, corresponds to American English.) It also notes that many universities now offer ASL as a foreign language and have programs devoted to both the linguistic and anthropologic study of ASL.
This video poignantly raises awareness of the challenges for those who are hearing impaired — they can’t communicate with much of the world.
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) reports that two to three of every 1,000 children in the United States are born deaf or hard of hearing, with 90 percent of those children born to parents without any kind of hearing impairment.
At the end of the video Muharrem, understandably, loses it. So did we. (Photo: YouTube)
Furthermore, NAD reports, while 95 percent of newborns receive a hearing screening before being discharged from the hospital, many of those suspected of being hard of hearing do not receive the appropriate follow-up evaluations and care to ensure that those children are able to have full access to language therapists as they continue to grow.
“The acquisition of language from birth is a human right,” says NAD. “Deaf and hard of hearing infants should be given the opportunity to acquire American Sign Language (ASL), a fully accessible visual language, as early as possible, in addition to the opportunity to access and acquire the spoken language(s) used by their families through the use of assistive technologies and other strategies. The NAD is strongly committed to ensuring that parents of newly identified deaf or hard of hearing infants receive accurate information about the benefits of acquiring and developing proficiency in both ASL and English.”
The Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD) is working alongside NAD on what they refer to as the Child First campaign, a lobbying movement to ensure that hearing impaired children receive the same educational rights and benefits as their hearing peers. Some of the core elements of the Child First movement are helping to make schools create classroom environments where students with disabilities are in the same classes and receive the same instruction as students without disabilities and assuring that deaf and hard-of-hearing children are in an educational environment that successfully accommodates their language and communication needs, including access to both American Sign Language and spoken English in their classrooms as well as visual and auditory technologies for support as needed.
In 2012, a “We the People” petition was filed with the White House to officially recognize American Sign Language as a “community language,” to help destigmatize the use of ASL in schools and to recognize it as a valid language of instruction in schools.
The White House responded, saying, “Nothing in federal law prohibits a school or university from having a curriculum that includes ASL instruction. Nothing prohibits courses taught in ASL for students with and without disabilities. The Department of Education has implemented policies, investments, and programs to ensure that all students, including students who are deaf or hard of hearing, have access to a world-class education, along with opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and skills through appropriate assessments aligned to high academic standards” and noted that the “Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing.”