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Deaf People Cross Multiple Divides at the Border

Deaf News: Deaf people cross multiple divides at the United States border.

NOGALES, AZ -- Seated at Taco Yaqui in Nogales, Sonora last Friday, Reggie Holmes of Tucson tried to order lunch from his Spanish-speaking waiter – a familiar challenge for any non-Spanish speaking Arizonan who crosses the border.

But for Holmes, a 31-year-old associate at Goodwill, the cross-cultural interaction is even more complex. He is Deaf, and uses sign language, lip-reading and writing as his primary forms of communication.

At first Holmes tried hand gestures with the waiter. But then he noticed the menu written on the wall and rushed over to it.

He pointed to the “chiles verdes” tacos and held up four fingers. The waiter understood and Holmes was soon digging into his lunch.

Holmes, who regularly crosses the border for dental visits, doesn’t just navigate the English-Spanish barrier in Mexico, but also the hearing-deaf divide. Even when he meets Deaf Mexicans, he must find creative ways to communicate because he uses American Sign Language (ASL), which employs different symbols and grammar than Mexican Sign Language (LSM by its Spanish acronym).

Most people have encountered situations, while traveling or otherwise, in which they’ve had to find creative ways to communicate. But according to University of Texas linguistics professor David Quinto-Pozos, who studies bilingual language acquisition as well as interaction between ASL and LSM speakers, Deaf people like Holmes are especially skilled at communicating past language barriers, or picking up the local language in border and other multilingual areas.

After all, he said, Deaf people already navigate and communicate in a world designed for those who hear. Read The Full Story - Nogales International.
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