Who We Are: D/deaf/Hard of Hearing Sewist

A curly hair woman with glasses standing in front of the mirror showing her left hearing device.
A curly hair woman with glasses standing in front of the mirror showing her left hearing device.

The D/deaf/Hard of Hearing people (I include any type of deafness as there are 4 level of deafness from light to profound) is a public often forgotten. Deafness being invisible, it is easy to forget the basic parameters to take into account to facilitate communication.

Before going a little more in depth into the subject, let us recall the basic definition of the term DEAF (according to the CNRTL, a French source): “a person whose perception of the sound is disturbed, who is deprived of the sense of hearing or who is suffering from a lowering (one-sided or two-sided) hearing that prevents hearing certain sounds.” However, the person may hear a sound, noise but she/he may have difficulty with distinguishing them, to locate them, the message may be deformed. For someone with a moderate hearing loss, sometimes it is like hearing someone speaking in a foreign language.

Also, the terms “D/deaf/Hard-of-Hearing” vary from person to person depending on their experience, culture, and so on!

Communicating Clearly

Depending on the degree of deafness, some parameters and mode of communication are privileged. The following non-exhaustive list is based on my own experience as a deaf person (moderate hearing loss) and to avoid offending anyone, I will say “I” or “Me” :

  • Speak in front of me and do not hide your mouth (with your hand or other objects), as this prevents lip reading, I may need to rely on your lips to support my understanding.
  • Avoid talking from another room because it’s very annoying, I sometimes don’t “understand” what you are saying, I make you repeat but without success so I have to come to you (while I was busy doing something) and ask you to repeat for the umpteenth time. Simply come to me.
  • You do not need to call my name 5 times, get close to me or wave your hand or gently tap my shoulder to get my attention.
  • Articulate in a reasonable way.
  • Slightly increase the volume of your voice but needless to yell.
  • Also avoid whispering, it is very unpleasant… or if necessary, whisper very close to my ear.
  • Be patient and remember that it is not my fault, I don’t do this to bother you and seeing you being annoyed due to repetition will only tense the conversation and build a gap between you and me.

If you come across a Deaf person who signs, use gestures or mimes will show an effort on your willingness to maintain the conversation. A pen and paper are an excellent support for maintaining a conversation if sign language is her/his mode of communication but you do not know it. In writing, be clear and concise, use sketch if necessary.

Fun fact, in France, I read and witnessed this many times, when a Deaf person orders food at the restaurant and explains she/he is Deaf, suddenly, the vendor starts speaking English (“THAT, YES”) before realizing that it is useless!

Wondering where is the link between deafness and sewing?

I’m sure there are many D/deaf/Hard of Hearing people who want to learn new skills (like sewing for example) through YouTube, or share their sewing on Instagram and Facebook. If any of you have some ASL and SEWING skills, starting a YouTube channel with tutorial in sign language would be a great idea!

However, the vast majority of videos are not closed captioned which means that D/deaf/Hard of Hearing people are excluded by default while hearing people can take full advantage of what Instagram offers (and used wisely, Instagram can change the user’s life). Personally, I need to set the sound loud or put the phone close to my ear to hear comfortably a video (but then I can’t watch it…) and it requires a high level of focus to hear well. Or I use headphones, but when I do not have them on hand, I simply skip the video.

How you can help: Closed Caption your Instagram stories!

If during your Insta story you could add closed captions, this would be a very big step towards inclusion of D/deaf/Hard of Hearing people in social media. I grant you, it requires some adjustments but if you were in our shoes, would not you appreciate the comfort of closed captions ?

I have found a free app for android users and I tested it. It is possible to choose a language of speech recognition among 7 languages (French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Hebrew and Turkish):

To do so, please follow the following steps :

  • Open PLAY STORE 
  •  Download « autocap » in PLAY STORE
  • Once installed, open app and choose between “select the video” you have already recorded or “camera” if you want to record a live video
  • After selecting the already recorded video, choose the voice recognition language and press NEXT and wait
  • Closed caption are added to the video ! But, it may not be very accurate sometimes so you will need to edit the caption. To do so, tap the line where you want to edit and tap the PEN pictogram.
  • Edit the words and tape DONE (on the bottom right of keyboard). You can also replay by taping the blue arrow to make sure you are editing the correct word.
  • To link the line with the line above, tap on the first green/white arrow. To add a line, tap on the last green/white arrow. To remove the line, simply tap the PEN pictogram, erase the sentence, tap DONE and confirm delete sentence. To change the font and font color, tap the blue parameter pictogram. If you want to highlight a word, tap the word and tap the purple pictogram. To remove the highlighting, tap the grey pictogram.
  • To adjust the timing, tap on the CLOCK pictogram. If you want to shift of a few seconds the sentence, simply tap and hold the blue rectangle and move from right to left. If you want to shorten or lengthen the time of the sentence, tap and hold the lower edge of the rectangle. To adjust the size of the font, tap and hold the white rectangle of the bottom of the video. Tap DONE when the above adjustment are completed.
  • Edit the words and tape DONE (on the bottom right of keyboard). You can also replay by taping the blue arrow to make sure you are editing the correct word.

Once the video + caption have been adjusted, you can tap SAVE.

The logo of the app will appear in the video, which is too bad. But it will also allow other users to discover the app. If you want to remove the logo, you will need to subscribe for € 3.99 / month. Now go to instagram and upload your video!

A tip before you start recording a video of you facing the camera: leave a margin between the bottom of the screen and your chin because otherwise you may have closed caption on the bottom of your face.

I don’t have an iPhone so I’ll simply link the tutorial found on Google : https://9to5mac.com/2017/04/07/apple-clips-app-ultimate-guide-video-walkthrough/ (Editor’s note: Several of us on the Sewcialists team use Clipomatic and it works well! It’s about $5CAD, and easy to use. I like that it lets you edit your autocaptions before you save, so I can fix “socialists” to “Sewcialists”!)

I would like to give a special thank you to Sasha (@kingdomdaughtermakes) on instagram who reached out to me asking if closed caption would be helpful and had this wonderful idea to make a special post on Instagram and since then, more and more people are captioning their videos like Sewcialists, Closet Case Patterns (their instagram account is here), Sasha, Rumana from (@thelittlepomegranate), to name a few….

I would love to read your experience of your hearing loss journey and how you managed to accept your deafness :-). And if you have any question, I would be more than happy to read you so don’t hesitate to leave your question in the comment section 🙂

Also a special thanks to the Sewcialists along with authors of blog posts who highlight diversity and uniqueness. I’m so proud to be part of this sewing community !

I’m Anissa, a 29 year old from France who started sewing at the age of 6. It is also the age of when I had my first hearing devices that I didn’t want to wear until the age of 22 ! When I was young, I wish I could have met people wearing hearing devices, it would have encouraged me to wear them. Now I fully accepted my deafness and encourage people to do so 🙂

I’ve just launched my business where I design and make leather bags. Part of the sales goes to Deaf Child Worldwide, a non-profit organization that supports Deaf children in developing country. You can find me sewing on instagram @askina_collection or here. Click here to visit my website.