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That deaf guy

People usually complain that there is not enough readily available information out there which gives an insight into the lives of those persons with disabilities and/or challenges. I can understand this as I too sometimes have to search for information out there regarding a particular disability that is not at my fingertips.

In this day and age of technology there should be a lot more information forthcoming as Internet access is now a common tool in most households and even if not in the home, it can be accessed at offices, Internet cafes and even other devices such as cellphones and Ipads.

I know that in many countries there is a “Deaf Awareness Day” where lots of things are done, displayed and conveyed to inform the public not only about deafness but tell them how they could become more involved in the deaf community by learning sign language and even where classes are being held in their area.

One of the most effective ways I’ve seen within recent times is a comic strip titled That Deaf Guy. It is the brainchild of cartoonist Matt Daigle, who is deaf, and his wife Kay, an interpreter and actress/comedian.

When I came across it on Facebook I was very intrigued and hugely impressed since it portrayed the life of a deaf person who has a family and the different ways they interact with each other and with others outside their households, in addition to highlighting and dispelling a lot of the myths which people out there have about the deaf.

Matt said: That Deaf Guy focuses on a family of three who each make their mark weekly. Desmond, who is deaf, is a stay-at-home father. Helen, his wife, is an interpreter with a hectic work schedule. Their son Cedric is a 4 year-old bi-lingual (ASL and English) child who uses his dad’s deafness and his mom’s busy schedule to his advantage.

“Through this family, Matt and Kay share real-life stories from their own lives that resonate with many in the deaf community, as well as the interpreting community.”

So just how did the concept of the comic strip come about? Matt said that over the years he noticed that people kept referring to him as “that deaf guy”. When he was in college a friend did an article in the newspaper about him as he was the only deaf person on the campus.

At the time there was a movie called Dead Man on Campus and his friend made reference to him as “That Deaf Guy on Campus” and they thought that was funny. So with that the name stuck and the rest is history.

Matt’s skills have allowed him to get jobs designing logos and characters and have also allowed him to open his own graphic business at home since he is a stay-at-home dad. One thing I found very interesting was the advantages he said came along with being a deaf artist.

Since art is a visual experience, it was easy for him to get into it because the deaf observe the world visually. It’s especially easy for them since they don’t have the “distraction” of noise and everything that goes along with it. He believes this gives the deaf artist the edge when it comes to being creative on paper as they depend on visual cues to understand all that is happening around them.

The one thing both Matt and his wife Kay desire to see is their comic strip go mainstream. Being able to have your strip as a regular staple in well-read newspapers is seen as a major progression and elevation in your work. Not only that, but it means that you get your message of awareness out there to the general public and being accepted into mainstream validates your work!

They also have a book coming out called A Family Portrait, which is a compilation of all his work done within recent times and even some of his earlier work. They did the entire layout and design work themselves and are indeed proud of this new project which is clearly a labour of love.

As a parent, I was very interested in how the son was portrayed in the strip and can’t help but think how privileged he is even though he may not understand it in its fullness at his young age. His parents have given him something which is priceless.

They have shown their son that he lives in a normal yet very unique household and that this work which is done by his parents is one which gives honour to a group of people who are sometimes misunderstood but are being showcased as being just like everybody else — which they are!

I wish both Matt and Kay all the best in their endeavours and look forward to seeing their cartoon strips in the mainstream media in the very near future. Not because you should give a deaf man and his family a chance, but because good work should be rewarded and That Deaf Guy is worthy of such. All the best guys!

* Bonnie Leonce is a qualified Sign Language Interpreter with an Associate of Arts Degree in Interpreting for the Hearing Impaired.

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