Tuesday, 12 March 2019

"I heard us being called names like 'the dummies'"


Shane O’Reilly: ‘As a young interpreter and also a young signer you become very comfortable with commanding attention’. Photo: Steve Humphreys
What is it like to grow up as the child of profoundly deaf parents? It might not be something you've ever given any serious thought to unless you've met one. 

But if you have, the questions will come thick and fast: 'If your parents sign, how do you learn to speak English?' 'Do you always have to interpret for them when neighbours or strangers come to the door, or relay what someone on the telephone is saying?' 'Can you make as much noise at home as you like?' 

After that might come the quick judgements: 'It must be such a drag having to help your Mammy out with stuff like booking a doctor's appointment.' 'You must have to grow up fast.' 'Hey, at least you can turn the music up full blast at home and get away with all kinds of things because your folks can't hear you!' It's surprising, then, that until now the fascinating subject of hearing children born into deaf families had never really been explored by mainstream media, but it was pure gold for the producers of a new one-off documentary on RTÉ One this Thursday. 

This hour-long film, called Mother Father Deaf, is beautifully made and shot by Sundance-nominated director Garry Keane and producer Anne Heffernan for Mind The Gap Films, features the very human stories of three adults whose upbringing has given them a unique perspective. 

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