Disability Japan

Women in Nagoya form group to promote and communicate in sign language

“Women with children in Nagoya have new opportunities to converse using sign language, after the creation of a new social group.”

Chunichi Shimbun reprinted in The Japan Times

December 11th 2017

Women with children in Nagoya have new opportunities to converse using sign language, after the creation of a new social group.

Called Defu Mama Saakuru mimi (Deaf Mothers Club ears), the group was established by two mothers, one of whom has a hearing disability.

The women discuss topics such as giving birth and actions to take in the event of a natural disaster.

The club welcomes mothers with or without hearing problems, and currently has 22 members from Nagoya, Toyota, Komaki, Inazawa, Nisshin, Obu, and Togo, all in Aichi Prefecture.

The group meets about once a month, usually at Midori Sports Center in Nagoya.

One of the group’s founders is 34-year-old Yukako Kiichi, a mother of two with a hearing disability. She had previously joined a parenting group in Midori Ward, where she lives, but she could not follow their conversations, so she joined a group called Tete to learn sign language three years ago.

After discussing the idea of creating “a group to use the sign language that they have learned” with the group’s leader, 36-year-old Satsuki Miyama, the two decided to establish mimi in March 2017. Both groups allow mothers to bring their children with them.

The theme for last month’s gathering, on Nov. 16, was giving birth.

The women were surprised when a mother with a hearing disability revealed that she was not able to wear her hearing aid during her cesarean section, so she could not hear her baby cry.

She explained that doctors were afraid that the electromagnetic waves from an electronic knife used in the surgery would damage the hearing aid.

“You cannot tell that someone has a hearing disability just by looking at the person. This group allows me to put myself in their shoes and learn the difficulties they face, which will also be useful when I go back to work,” said Erika Takagi, 33, an elementary school teacher from Obu who is on maternity leave.

When the group was discussing disaster prevention, another mother, who was living in Tokyo during the Great East Japan Earthquake, shared her story.

When the train she was on finally started moving, she could not hear the announcement, so she asked a passenger nearby to communicate with her in writing.

Some of the women in the group pointed out that it is necessary to bring spare batteries for their hearing aids when they evacuate.

Mayumi Hattori, 57, who taught Kiichi when she was attending Aichi Prefectural Chikusa School for the Deaf, explained that “most people do not realize that hearing difficulties change depending on the location and number of people involved.”

“When talking one on one, they can follow the conversation by reading the other person’s lips, but it is hard to do so in a group, like the parenting club,” Hattori said. “I think it is important for people to understand what (those with hearing disability) go through by spending time with them and communicating in sign language.”

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