By Brian Livingston / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
People who are deaf must overcome hurdles in their lives, much like other people who have physical challenges.
When Ramon Alford, who has been deaf since he was 18 months old, was at a mall recently with some of his deaf friends, they all got to experience first hand just how challenged some people are when it comes to sensitivity to those like himself.
Communicating through an interpreter, Alford said he and his friends were at a fast food restaurant in the food court of the mall attempting to place their orders. When he and his friends began writing down their orders, the clerks behind the counter began to obviously make fun of their system of ordering.
"The manager," said Alford through his interpreter, Tara Wooters, "saw where his workers were making fun of us. The manager told the clerks to go home for acting as they did. He took our orders and thanked us for our business."
What struck Alford was the fact that some people who are capable of hearing, are incapable of understanding.
On May 10, Alford, 27, will stride up onstage at the Mississippi State University-Meridian graduation ceremony and take possession of his degree in psychology. It is a goal he has been working toward despite his not being able to hear in class. It is an achievement in which he is most proud.
"My grandmother always told me to focus on my education and to be successful," Alford signed. "She is a big influence on me as are many people like my mom, dad, and a cousin who is also deaf and who is working toward her masters degree."
Alford lost his hearing early in his life so he has only scant memories of what sound is. He can hear very loud sounds, such as screams, the shrill siren of an ambulance, and music at a concert. But making sense of the sounds, as we who hear every day can do, is difficult. It all sounds like background noise.
When he was 12, Alford went to school in Jackson at the School for the Deaf. Spending his years previously in public schools receiving help in understanding the lessons taught in class was hard. But going to a school where everyone dealt with the same issue was much easier. Alford said sign is his first language and English is his second.
"It is hard to form words in the English language and use them appropriately," Alford said.
After high school graduation, Alford spent the first two years at Meridian Community College. There he met Wooters, who is one of two licensed sign language interpreters at the school.
"I've been going to his classes and helping him to understand what is going on," said Wooters. "I work for MCC but also split time here at MSU Meridian as well."
Alford is the third MSU Meridian graduate who is deaf. He said he has achieved his goals because he is, in his own words, stubborn.
"I was overwhelmed at first when I started college but I was also determined not to quit," Alford signed. "I believe I had to work harder than the students who could hear. I had to learn to understand what was being said and why. I took extra notes and studied hard."
This determination coupled with the encouragement of family and friends just fueled Alford's desire to go forward. He didn't want to let himself down nor did he want to disappoint his supporters.
Alford said his education won't stop when he gets the diploma in his hand either. He plans to continue working toward a masters degree in school counseling or education. Either way he wants to teach the deaf.
"It would help them to put them at ease if I'm deaf," Alford signed. "They will know I've been through what they are going through. If they are having a hard time dealing with their challenges, my psychology degree should help as well."