Interview with Zsolt Plaszkó, a Deaf Hungarian who studied at Gallaudet University

19251368_560379434351370_1991738567_nMr Plaszkó, a well-known member of the Hungarian Deaf community, gave us an insight into his life. He shared with us his experiences about being the only deaf in his family, how he was raised and also  told about his experiences with hearing people.

Was it difficult to grow up as the only Deaf child of hearing parents?

Should my parents have got all the information about Deaf culture and the methods with which deaf children are best raised, it would not have been this difficult, but unfortunately, they have not received these. For this reason, I was very confused as a child. I was very much in need of the suitable information in order to be able to catch up with the curriculum in elementary school. I cannot sufficiently emphasize how important it is to start the development of deaf children with appropriate methods in time. My teachers did not know sign language, and I did not know which language to regard as my first language. Eventually, I learnt signing from my friends and the Deaf community. I owe a lot to them, as well as to my sport teammates, who have done much to help me finally find my current identity, to find out who I am.

Are you a part of a Deaf community? Are you making programs together?

Yes, I am a board member of the Hungarian Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. We organize intellectual quizzes, programs for Halloween but we also do trips regularly, just to mention a few.

So is there a strong bond among the Deaf?

Yes, but this topic is not equally central to everyone’s life. For young people today the value of solidarity is less important than for the elderly.

What do you think about the relationship of the Deaf and hearing people today?

The Deaf have lived in a closed world between 1970 and 2000 partly because hearing people did not make the effort to establish a relationship with the Deaf. I think the biggest problem is with the incorrectly used term of „disability”. The communicational gap is not the society’s fault, but this concept’s. Then, in 2000, the internet came and opened up a new world: YouTube, Twitter, news in any amount. On the internet, every information is available about the world of the Deaf, which was inaccessible to many before. This was a huge help as in the 1980’s only fax and letter writing were available for deaf people. Now, we can benefit from video calls as well. But this change is down to advanced technology alone.

Is it not possible that hearing people rather fear that they react to something offensively, though unwittingly, or that they commit a mistake?

It is. They fear that we do not understand what they write. They are concerned about misunderstandings. They do not know what we are capable of and what we are not. The relationship of deaf and hearing people can be improved by mutual respect. I respect the culture of hearing people, I understand their customs, needs and reflexes. If they respect our culture as well, there should not be a problem. We have two different worlds: for hearing people, the most important things are associated with hearing, while for deaf people, visuality is the main element. We understand the world based on it, as we understand others through mimicry, gestures, that is, based on body language. I believe in the mutual respect of these two worlds.

What are the primary difficulties in everyday communication caused by?

The most difficult part perhaps is when I cannot make myself understood by others and I can also hardly understand them. On these occasions my thoughts become deformed. Let the communication rather be brief and to the point. This is enough for me. Basically, I do feel my handicap in every situations, especially when I do not have a sign language interpreter onsite, or the other party does not want to grab a pen and a paper to communicate in writing. In Hungary, people are mostly tolerant. Problems mostly occur when trying to communicate with elderly people because they expect the Deaf to be able to lip read. Technology, of course, is a big help not just in distance communication but onsite as well, as people just turn to their smartphones to write messages for each other. Also, there are some very useful apps that display spoken language in writing – this is also a great help.


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