Internet Backs Deaf Woman Who Refuses to Visit Parents Until They Learn Sign Language

A Deaf woman told her parents she would stop visiting them until they learned American Sign Language and thousands of users are supporting her decision.

The woman, who goes by u/basketsoftough on Reddit, received more than 14,600 votes and 1,570 comments since posting about her situation in the popular "Am I The A**hole" subreddit on Sunday.

In the post, she explained that when she was 18, she was in an accident that caused a traumatic brain injury (TBI). She said the TBI resulted in hearing loss in both ears leaving her Deaf and she did not qualify for cochlear implants.

She explained that the accident "derailed" her life, causing university to be pushed back and for her to suffer from depression "for a long time." She said once she decided to try getting back out there, she met the Deaf community and learned sign language.

But, u/basketsoftough explained that her relationship with her parents hadn't been the same since the accident.

"A few years ago I told them I have embraced being Deaf, and I asked them if they would learn ASL, as that is now how I prefer to communicate," the post read. "They said no at the time because they didn't have time to learn a new language. I have tried many times over the years to try to give them information on Deafness and ASL, but they have shown no interest."

ASL is a language that utilizes hand gestures and facial expressions to communicate and is the primary language of many North Americans who are Deaf. While the official origin of the language is unknown, some suggest it is derived from more than 200 years ago by mixing French Sign Language and local sign languages.

According to the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), while some find it simple to quickly pick up on individual signs, it takes "time, patience, practice, and a sense of humor" to learn ASL. ASL, like any other language, has its own set of grammar rules as well as sentence structure and syntax.

NAD suggests that it can take a year or more to learn enough signs for basic communication.

In the post, u/basketsoftough explained that now at 26, she feels content with her life and wants to be able to communicate with her parents using ASL. She wrote that she mainly communicates with her parents using voice-to-text on their phones which she said was "far from perfect" and chaotic when other people were around.

"Trying to keep up with conversations is exhausting, and people are constantly getting frustrated with me for not following along," she explained. "Often we watch movies, but they refuse to turn the captions on because it's 'annoying,' despite the fact that it means I can't understand the movie at all."

In the post, u/basketsoftough wrote that this Christmas she had a tough time communicating with everyone. She said this resulted in her being yelled at or ignored.

"Before I went home again, I sat my parents down and told them that if they did not begin to learn ASL, I would not be visiting again for a long time," she wrote.

She also told her parents that she did not expect them to ever be fluent in ASL but that she needed them to show that they were putting in effort and learning.

"I told them that they have continuously dismissed my needs as a deaf person, and that if they want to continue to have a meaningful relationship with me, we need to have some kind of shared language," the post read.

She explained that her comments "didn't go over well" and that her parents accused her of wanting to cut them off. She said that wasn't the case but rather she could no longer visit when her "presence feels like a burden."

u/Basketsoftough wrote that she had been texting her brother and he thought she was being "hugely unfair" to their parents.

Two people speaking sign language
A Deaf woman told her parents she refused to visit them until they learn American Sign Language. Her parents and brother all got upset and said she was being unfair. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

In the comments, many users poured in to defend u/basketsoftough.

"No, THEY are being unfair," one user commented. "Also, they either can't or don't want to learn ASL. Either way, you cannot keep accommodating them when they do NOTHING to accommodate YOU."

Others said her parents were "unsympathetic" by not wanting to learn ASL and for thinking the closed captions were "annoying."

"Asking people to learn even just a little ASL is 'wildly unfair?' The closed captions are 'annoying.' Screw that," one user wrote. "What's unfair is for someone to get into an accident bad enough to practically lose most of your hearing and then their family refusing to accommodate, being unsympathetic, yell at them and actively treat them like a burden for a situation they cannot control."

"I am furious for you..." another comment read. "Your post doesn't make it clear if your parents have always been d!cks or if they are in some sort of weird denial. In my limited experience the deaf community really is a community, find your new village and prosper."

Newsweek reached out to u/basketsoftough for comment.