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This article is a translation of the original interview
Beatriz Aurioles (Almería, Spain, 1994) is the founder of @en_psignos, the Instagram account created to bring health psychology closer to the deaf community.
What is depression? What are Phobias? What does psychological therapy entail? Beatriz provides answers to these questions and many more in her videos, all in Spanish Sign Language (SSL).
Although she specialized in Child and Adolescent Psychology, she confesses that she is now finally fulfilling her biggest dream: studying SSL to provide quality psychotherapy to deaf people.
SciGlam: How did your interest in studying sign language start?
Beatriz Aurioles: It started a few years ago, while I was studying my Bachelor and I was already considering what to do next after finishing my studies. But I was always putting it off because I had to pay for the courses, and it wasn’t that much of a priority. It was later, in 2019, when I decided to make it happen, because I realized that it wasn’t just a whim, it was necessary.
There is a need in the Psychology field that hasn’t been covered yet. The deaf community is a population group that does not have an easy access to psychological therapy because there are practically no psychologists who know sign language, or at least not in Spain.
There is a need in the Psychology field that hasn´t been covered yet. The deaf community is a population group that does not have an easy access to psychological therapy.
Aren’t there deaf people who have studied psychology?
I suppose there are some, but since they have had so many shortcomings in their education throughout their history due to deficiencies of the education system, many do not make it to university. But it is true that now it is increasingly more common to see deaf people at university.
Has a limitation in oral communication been enough for society to turn its back on deaf people?
Yes, totally. Think that, normally, their friends and partners are also deaf precisely for this reason.
Human beings are social by nature and need to interact and communicate to survive. Thus, if deaf people cannot do so easily with hearing people, they end up closing themselves off from society as well.
That is why I believe that everyone should have at least some basic knowledge of sign language. Health professionals and people who provide a service to the public would especially benefit from learning sign language to facilitate deaf people’s access to these services.
But society has focused its efforts on making them adapt to the use of oral language…
Yes, that is called oralism, and it is another form of discrimination. In the past, here in Spain sign language was prohibited, and deaf people’s hands were even tied so that they could not communicate in their language. It was a brutal linguistic deprivation, with all that that entails on a social and personal level. Fortunately, society has changed, of course, but to give you an idea, Spanish (and Catalan) sign languages were not recognized as official languages until 2007.
How can society promote the personal and professional development of deaf people?
From school; deaf children have the right to have interpreters. And universities should have specialist interpreters in each subject, not someone who gives all subjects, because they need to have a rich language in each field so that they can pursue a quality education.
What about leisure time? That is also important. Cinemas, theaters, concerts… all these forms of entertainment leave them out.
True, people don’t think about these things. Nobody finds this important, and this forces deaf people to opt for other forms of entertainment. They stay at home watching movies. Some apps also have sign language translation, so they don’t have to read. Although they can read lips, they say it’s exhausting and they prefer to interact in sign language, which is how they really feel comfortable.
In this sense, the work that Beatriz Romero does with the composer Maria Rozalén is very interesting.
Yes, I think they have been pioneers in integration. Also, since a few years ago, here in Almería there is the “Cooltural Fest”, in which there are sign language interpreters, and backpacks with vibrations are provided for them to feel the music.
Also, deaf actress Ángela Ibáñez did a very inclusive play “Calígula Murió. Yo no”. In this show, she uses SSL and, of course, the audience doesn’t understand when she talks, so there is this voice from a sign language interpreter narrating what she says. Putting the hearing audience in this situation is important for them to realize the frustration that deaf people suffer daily.
Deaf people can do the same as any hearing person except hear.
The book Deaf Child Crossing by deaf actress Marlee Matlin (winner of an Oscar for Children of a Lesser God) describes very well the insistence of the hearing community in treating the deaf community as dependent. How do we change this stigma?
Deafness is not linked to disability or intelligence level. Deaf people can do the same as any hearing person except hear. This is something that causes them deep frustration. Their self-esteem is down because throughout their lives, they have always encountered barriers. Many deaf people are either unemployed or in unskilled jobs: cleaning, kitchen assistants; and they are fully capable of developing any skilled jobs.
How is the sign language like? How is it structured?
Well, it is a very beautiful and very rich language. The first thing to remember is that sign language is not universal; it depends on each country and each culture, something that often surprises people. And in terms of structure, it is different from oral Spanish, which is what I speak. We say the subject, the verb and the object, “I watch the TV”. In sign language it is the other way around: subject, object and verb, “I TV watch”. The verb always goes at the end.
While oral language is auditory, sign language is a visual gestural language, expressions and vocabulary refer to the shape of objects or the use that is given to objects. For example, they have their own sayings because they refer to the visual part, to the shape of objects. In spoken language, we give more emphasis on rhyme.
Do you think that the new forms of communication through social networks, mainly chats, facilitate their opening to society?
Yes, but many deaf people have problems with writing because, as I mentioned before, oral language, whether written or spoken, is structured differently from sign language. This must be taken into account. Their language is sign language and it is what is most comfortable to them. That is why I encourage many people to learn sign language, but it must be done respectfully, without an appropriation of their language. It often happens in social media that some hearing individuals who have learned a few things start teaching others with the intention of spreading sign language, but the fight for their rights must be theirs. Talking and meeting deaf people, surrounding yourself with deaf people, that is the best way to learn their language.
Talking and meeting deaf people, surrounding yourself with deaf people, that is best way to learn their language.
When will you be ready to assist deaf patients at the clinic?
It is still early. I am learning the language and I am practicing the vocabulary necessary to do psychotherapy by preparing the videos of @en_psignos. With children, however, I could start working right now. I recently talked to the Provincial Association of Deaf People in Almería to inform them that they already have this possibility. I am also teaching in workshops on early childhood education techniques for deaf-born parents that have been very well received, more than I expected!