The teachers are deaf! This is a unique opportunity to meet a native signer in a safe environment and learn the language directly from the person who uses it on a daily basis. Warsaw University has opened a new branch of study Philology of Polish sign language, where for 2 years you can learn to really well sign and communicate with deaf people. My partner there is a lecturer and coordinator of lecturers and attaches great importance to the quality of teaching PJM. All lecturers are deaf. This creates good conditions for learning PJM. It’s worth taking advantage of.
What about access to culture, especially given the diversity of needs and opportunities?
I think that the foundation for culture without barriers is doing a great job in this area. For many years, it has been organizing a festival without barriers, where everyone, regardless of the type of disability, can take part in cultural events, go to a performance translated into PJM, watch a video with audiodescription. The Foundation educates and shows how it can be done well.
We have deaf artists in the community who work in art galleries and give tours in Polish sign language. I myself have been to exhibitions in zachęta or the National Museum. More and more museums are trying to make their offer accessible to the deaf and are commissioning translations for their materials, creating subtitles.
But I do know that I live in a kind of bubble. Warsaw has the largest and richest offer for the deaf, there are the most translators who do their job professionally. In the rest of the smaller cities it is not so colorful anymore.
We can probably talk for a long time about the difficult access of the deaf to culture or participation in social life, but I am also interested in the adversity of this situation.
Is it because of the cultural diversity of deaf people that hermetic cultural works are created that are inaccessible to those who can hear or do not know sign language?
Yes, they are being created, but there are quite a few of them in Poland. For example, we have Sign Language poetry, where sign language is the material of the poet. The dynamics of the execution of characters, repetition, or rhythm, any language games and unusual for sign language use of space and classifiers MoJ use to create a poem, storytelling.
These are things rather untranslatable into phonetic languages, understood by people familiar with the culture of the deaf. Abroad, artistic movements are stronger, there are more artistic initiatives and festivals, there are theaters created by the deaf.
There, however, the awareness of cultural and linguistic diversity is much greater than in Poland.
In Poland, for example, we have a rising star, a deaf artist who performs performative art from the edge of worlds, Daniel Kotowski. It shows the world of the deaf from different perspectives. It’s worth going to one of his performances.