One of my assinments in my ASL class was to go to a mall and act as though I was deaf, trying to communicate completely through sign and gestures. Kitzzy and I were going to the Prime Outlet mall near the Mall of Millenia on Saturday so I figured it'd be a good opportunity. Kitzzy knows some sign language, enough for us to get by chatting back and forth in the mall. This was a great learning experience for me and it was fun, frustrating and thought-provoking.
I noticed a few things right off the bat that I hadn't expected. For one, it was easy for me to turn off my voice, but I had a much harder time turning off my hearing. In the first shop we went to, I was looking at some clothes and one of the sales people came up behind me and asked if I needed some help. Of course my natural reaction was to just turn around and say no, and just after I did that, I realized that killed my opportunity to act deaf. Similarly I kept telling Kitzzy to turn off her voice so I wouldn't be tempted to look at her when she talked to me.
It took us about 30 minutes before we were finally able to get into the no-voice/no-hearing groove and once we did, it was actually kind of neat walking around signing to one another. Walking around the mall, I noticed we were getting a lot of looks. It felt like a lot of people were watching us sign.
Our signing, while not 100% accurate, was actually pretty understandable and we almost never had to speak to clarify what we were saying to each other. I think the mall is a good setting for this exercise since there's a lot to look at and talk about there. I might try this at Disney some day.
One thing we did find difficult was walking and signing. There were a lot of people there and avoiding obstacles like support columns and kiosks was quite a task while we were busy looking at and signing to one another. Several times we stopped and stood off to the side to finish talking before we started walking again.
The first store where I talked to someone was the Pearl Izumi Outlet. They sell mostly sports-clothing and I was looking at some cycling shoes. I tried to ask the salesman about two of the shoes and found myself asking more of a "which one do you like better?" and me holding up two of them. He was polite, but I was a bit nervous so I didn't talk to him as much as I would've liked to.
After visiting a few more shops, we made it to the food court and went to Tropical Sensations, a sandwich and smoothy place. We stood there for awhile looking at their menu and signing back and forth about what we wanted to eat. We pretty successfully communicated to one another what we wanted and I went up to order. I think the guy working at the register realized we were deaf and was ready for us. As soon as I started ordering, he just handed me a sticky note and motioned to write down what I wanted. This was a bit anticlimactic since I was really hoping to try explaining my order with gestures.
One thing I started thinking about during the experience is how often do hearing people imitate deaf people for things less honorable than academic pursuits. I would say I could've probably done this without knowing much sign language at all since communicating with the salespeople was more focused on visual descriptions than detailed conversation.
I had a wonderful experience doing this and I may try it again in the future. I think having another person with me was beneficial because we could sign together and worse comes to worse, I can have them be my interpreter or vice-versa. I think this was a great exercise and really gave me a good perspective to see part of the world through the eyes of a deaf person.