Having learned sign language at a young age to be able to communicate with their brother, the two also fell into the habit of using it with each other.
The conversation surrounding disabilities is often — and rightfully so — focused on making the world we live in more inclusive and accessible for everyone. Friends and families make certain changes and additions to their life to accommodate a disabled loved one and with time, these skills and habits become normalized elements of their life. Such is the case of two siblings who grew up with a deaf brother. Having learned sign language at a young age to be able to communicate with their brother, the two also fell into the habit of using it with each other. However, they recently found themselves in a tricky spot when a disabled man took offense with two abled individuals using sign language in public and turned to the internet to figure out if they were in the wrong.
One of the siblings recounted the incident to the Am I the A**hole Reddit community in a post titled: "AITA for using sign language in public even though I am not disabled?" Providing some background details to better present their case, they wrote: "My oldest brother is deaf from birth. And my younger brother and I were taught sign language when we were little so we could communicate with him."
"It's very often that when we are among friends or at family gatherings, my younger brother and I would still communicate with each other using sign language especially when we want to talk about something we don't want other people to know. My oldest brother has no problem with it," the Reddit user, SnooPineapples4931, continued. "But apparently some people think it's so disrespectful to use sign language when we are neither deaf nor mute, especially in public. Yesterday at a friend's parent's funeral, which we were attending, a family member of the friend, who is disabled, confronted us."
"He told us we, who have no hearing or speaking disability, shouldn't be communicating using sign language in public because, first, it's offensive to him and other disabled people. Second, because we are giving the wrong impression to people who don't know us that we're disabled, which is also offensive," the Redditor recounted. In an attempt to defend their actions, the siblings responded that their oldest brother is deaf and that they have been communicating using sign language since they were children. "I told him my oldest brother is deaf so we have been communicating using sign language around the house for years since we were little and that we had no intention of offending anybody with disabilities. It's just a habit," the Redditor wrote.
However, they failed to convince the other individual who insisted that it's still very offensive and asked them to stop it. "I politely told him he's not the boss of me and I can do whatever I want and then left," the Redditor revealed. "Am I really the a**hole?" they asked in conclusion. Fellow Redditors overwhelmingly voted NTA (not the a**hole) in this case as many noted that using sign language is no different than talking in a foreign language in an English-speaking setting. "It's a language. You're allowed to speak languages not everyone understands, be it sign language or Russian. Of course, it's a little risky telling secrets because you gamble with the possibility someone might understand without you realizing it," wrote Reddit user 3Fluffies.
"It's not 'cultural appropriation,' which is what the family friend seems to be implying. Cultural appropriation involves actual degradation and mimicry of a culture, rather than actively using something that does not lose its value to the people who originated it. It's a language," they continued. "You're not claiming you invented it, you're not using it to lampoon disabled people - languages are meant to be spoken (or signed, in this case). Your family friend is off base and you were well within your rights - he is indeed not the boss of you and you were doing nothing wrong." What do you think? Should or shouldn't they use sign language to communicate with each other?