Joi Alon

“Sign language was my first language: a necessity in order to communicate with my grandparents. When I was a little girl, my mom explained to me how my grandma and grandpa were deaf, which meant they couldn’t understand the words that came out of my mouth. At the time, I couldn’t comprehend why or how my grandparents couldn’t hear, but I knew that speaking with my hands was the way to talk to them. To me, this was the norm. Though, I learned over time that most kids didn’t have deaf grandparents like I did, and that even my teachers couldn’t comprehend what I was saying when I signed. My classmates, however, were always in awe and admiration of this new language: endlessly fascinated when they saw me spell their names in the air. My exposure to such a disability as a child gave me a completely unique perspective on the subject. I understood that I had been tremendously lucky to have been born with hearing; that it wasn’t and shouldn’t ever be thought of as a given. I not only learned to acknowledge my gifts in life, but also the things I seemingly lack. Most importantly, I realized that my deaf grandparents were just as lucky as I was. They belong to a community of people just like them; they not only accept their reality, but embrace their differences in the most inspiring way; they’re tremendously grateful to be themselves. Despite our blatant differences, there isn’t ever a barrier between us. My grandparents feel my love and appreciation, no words necessary. They’ve been my constant reminder that sometimes my actions do speak louder than words.”

– Joi Alon, 12th Grade Student

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