Living in a silent world

Azizan’s family went out of their way and learned sign language to improve communication with him.

Optimism brings a person to better place. Despite being diagnosed as deaf since his infant days, Azizan Nor Abdul Rahman remained positive. Through his positive outlook on life, he managed to overcome barriers with much love and support from his family.

Understanding the deaf culture

Being deaf is not an obstacle for 38-year-old Azizan Nor Abdul Rahman. The friendly Azizan revealed that he lost his hearing due to a high fever during his infant years. However, he remained optimistic despite being unable to hear or speak.

Azizan’s wife and son are his support pillar and his motivation in life.

“I got used to being with ‘talking people’ because all this while I have been working and surrounded by them. Whether deaf or not, we are all the same as we are complete and can do what we want,” Azizan said. He also stressed that each and every individual is all God’s good creation.

Coming from a family with five siblings, Azizan shared that his family has always been his pillar of support and motivation in his life. His wife and the birth of his son further strengthened him in his life journey.

Azizan currently works in Singapore, far from his hometown, Kuching. He accepted the job offer because he wanted to provide a better living for his family. “My plan is to work a few more years, then come back to Kuching and start my own business while being with my family.”

After completing his diploma in graphic design, he worked in an interior design company in Brunei as a graphic designer for two years. “Then I came back to Kuching to work in a local soap company as a team leader. I worked there together with a few deaf friends for two years.”

Now, Azizan works as an assistant course leader for a Bosiet (basic offshore safety induction and emergency training) training centre in Singapore. The centre specialises in safety training for the oil and gas industry.

Azizan’s job requires him to always be alert to ensure the safety of the trainees during their helicopter underwater escape training. “I need to be inside the pool to care for their safety. Sometimes if the trainees were too afraid to exit the helicopter, I would help them to overcome their fear.”

Being around colleagues, it can be difficult for him especially when communicating. “It can be a challenge at times especially when the people around me don’t understand the deaf culture and the way we live.”

Sometimes when he need to get a message across, he would always repeat it countless times until his colleagues understood. “I will ask and ask until I get the answer. Sometimes it will frustrate that person.” At times of dificulties, he would just convey the message on paper.

At times, his wife — also his motivator — helps him to overcome the challenges he goes through. She would help interpret his messages to his colleagues through video call.

Despite all that, Azizan remained thankful to God as he was blessed with good opportunities and a family that supports him in his journey. He revealed that his family and even the extended ones had learned sign language to better communicate with him.

His wife had also attended sign language classes at the Sarawak Society for the Deaf centre. Prior to that, Azizan taught her how to use sign language.

A loving husband, Azizan met his wife at work before they got together for five years. They were blessed with a son after three years of marriage.

According to his wife, Helen Chung, she had gotten used to the way her husband talked in sign language, hence it was easy for her to communicate with him. “I know his style, so I know which way to communicate with him.”

The Deaf Culture

The Deaf Culture prefers to be known as another being rather than labelled as the disabled. A deaf advocate from the US, Eileen O’Banion said it is all about perspective. “When you are deaf, you see the world in a different way.

You communicate differently. You seek out others who are deaf because they understand you. You don’t believe you have a disability — and you don’t want to be fixed.”

Eileen further emphasise on the importance as it allows individuals to be themselves. “And to live in a way that is unique to them. There’s more to a person than whether or not they can hear, so don’t just focus on their ears.”

The culture is a social belief, behaviour, art, literary traditions, history, values, and shared institutions of communities that are influenced by deafness and which use sign language as the main means of communication.

When communicating with the deaf, it is very important to note that ‘eye-contact’ is vital when conveying something. It is a sign of respect for them.

The importance of learning sign language:

1 . To overcome communication barrier between the deaf and the non-deaf.
2 . Leaning a new language is beautiful!
3 . For an employer to encourage sign language, it increases job opportunities for the deaf in corporate offices, private and public sectors.
4 . Tertiary education promoting sign language in their campuses can provide the deaf with equal education opportunities.
5 . Learning sign language can open up a new world for the hearing. They can also learn more about the deaf culture.
6 . Through signing with the deaf, you can make new friends and meet new people. Learn new things!
7 . A different way to communicate with in the community.

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