A Deaf Child on the Rise: Reneé Sites, Deaf Mother
A common I get as a deaf woman is, “What is it like to be deaf”? What was it like being a deaf child growing up? Definitely not quiet like people imagine, I always have sounds in my head. It’s quite interesting to be deaf, communicating in a beautiful language and being just as successful as a hearing person. Also frustrating because communication access is not widely available for different types of appointments. It’s frustrating that we have to advocate for ourselves and use another person for communication. Hi my name is Reneé, and I am a deaf mother. I also work full time as TSHA’s Deaf Services Department Manager.
Deaf Awareness Week this year is September 20-26 and it makes me think about what Deaf Awareness means to me as a Deaf person. It means bringing the spotlight to our hearing counterparts about Deaf culture. The communication, perspective, arts, the language, the people and more. Deaf culture is very different from a hearing person’s perspective, and their culture unique. Deaf Awareness means reminding people that the Deaf community has it’s own set of lifestyle and that Deaf culture is a real thing, including deaf pride.
To me, Deaf pride means not being ashamed of our deafness and who we are as a unique individual. It means we have a unique disability whose very nature causes a culture to emerge from it. It means we deal with oppression together. It means we can succeed in anything we do. We are proud of who we are, what we have overcome and our culture. We have pride in our history and stories and struggles. It means sharing a language that makes us successful. Without ASL, we couldn’t be proud or successful as we are. It is the spark that changes our life.
My favorite thing about being deaf and the most rewarding thing is our language. Not only is it a beautiful visual language that, to the hearing world can be very interesting to watch, but it gives me access. It gives me success and the ability to relate to others around me, including human connection. I was able to connect with my peers and friends around me through a deaf school when I was 12 years old. My sister and I are both deaf, and she started in the same school when I was a few years younger. This helped me connect with my deaf peers around me and understand my own identity as a deaf person.
My heroes in life would be Jesus and my parents supporting me along my journey through adulthood. They encouraged me through my struggles, they supported me when needed, and they also let me choose my own path. They have big hearts and are always helping people and have made me into the thriving woman I am today!
The greatest accomplishment in my life would be raising my son as a single mom and getting my bachelors degree before he turned 21 years old. I also was chosen as Tulsa Woman of the Year in 2018 and serve deaf Oklahomans with TSHA. There is a common stigma that deaf people cannot be successful and raise their own child, drive a car or even get a job. TSHA has made me want to be a better person and give back to my fellow deaf and hard of hearing community. When I did my internship with TSHA I found a love and joy for the people of Oklahoma. Years later, I am now working full time as Deaf Services Manager and have added 2 people to our Deaf Services team. But most importantly is seeing the impact that Deaf Services has on the lives of those in our community that need guidance or support that is often not found through their own families.