The chance to be heard

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 January, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 January, 1996, 12:00am

HIS expressive face and hands convey a wealth of meanings as Chung Chi-man, who uses sign language, tells how a drama contest gave him and his friends the chance to express themselves in a way that speaking and hearing people do through words.

'I was nervous at first because I found it difficult to communicate with the hearing people as I couldn't explain what I wanted to say to them in words,' Chi-man told Young Post through interpreter Wang Kai-fung.

However, after several rehearsals, Chi-man became familiar with the theatre group.

'I started to communicate with some fellow members by simple sign language and I felt much more at ease with them,' he said.

Chi-man and four friends, who are all deaf and attend the Morrison Hill Technical Institute Kwun Tong Training Centre, took part in a drama contest, along with hearing students, organised by Haking Wong Technical Institute's Civic Education Society. The aim was to raise public awareness of discrimination towards the deaf.

The contest organiser's civic education co-ordinator, Susanna Wong, said: 'It also helped to promote a greater understanding of deaf people in the territory.' She said many Hong Kong people still regarded people with hearing disabilities as 'strange'.

'We hope to change this attitude by providing important insights into the activities of deaf people through drama contests,' she said.

Chi-man went deaf when he was a young boy and has found inspiration in his teachers and fellow drama students, who have accepted their deafness and found a way to express themselves. But they are bitter at the lack of facilities for deaf people in Hong Kong.

'It was a privilege to perform on the stage and I wanted to tell the audience what I wanted and how I felt,' he said.

'But the few support facilities for deaf people on the stage was a shame.' Despite this, Chi-man said the school and teachers have been very supportive of their play. 'They encouraged us to take part in the drama contest. It was the first time I have taken part in something like this, and it has improved my self esteem.' Rita Cheung, a fellow hearing student, said the drama contest enabled her to understand deaf people better.

'If I hadn't had the chance to work with them in the play, I wouldn't have understood them as I know very little sign language,' she said.

The commerce student at the Morrison Hill Technical Institute said it was important to understand deaf people's inner world through interactive communication. 'If we want to understand their 'real needs', it's necessary to spend more time with them,' Rita said.

More importantly, Rita said she sees her deaf friends as the same as her other friends.

Electronics student Frankie Chan said: 'I don't see them as any different. I just treat them as ordinary people.' Although the group didn't win any prizes, Chan said it was a valuable learning experience.

The championship went to a play entitled, I Am A Human, performed by a group of students from Haking Wong Technical Institute.