The Deaf Vee Journal editorial team was introduced to Syra of “The Syra Factor” who coined a growing hashtag movement, #HearMeSign. People who participate in this movement are fighting language deprivation, one hashtag at a time. As part of the growing dialogue about the movement and awareness about language deprivation, Syra agreed to talk with us about how it came to be and some fun facts!

Photographs courtesy of #HearMeSign

Mary Pat: Hi Syra! Thank you so much for being willing to speak with us today! We wanted to ask a few questions about this new hashtag movement you’ve been getting so many people to participate in! How did you come up with #HearMeSign?

Syra: As a Deaf person, I struggled with language deprivation and deficiency throughout my primary and secondary education. I felt ignored, neglected, and unheard. I had to suppress my curiosity, thoughts, feelings, and desires. I was so frustrated by the lack of linguistic and educational stimulus. I felt invisible. I wished I was seen and heard. I often wished they heard me signing. I just wanted to be heard naturally like my peers at school. That’s how I chose the ‘Hear Me Sign’ campaign. No child should ever go unheard.

Mary Pat: That is absolutely true, we as a community struggle with language deprivation and we continue to see the long term impact. What do you hope to accomplish with this hashtag?

Syra:  I hope to raise awareness of sign language deprivation in deaf children and push for changes in Canada (and everywhere in the world). I initially began the campaign by protesting on Mondays as I also encouraged others to join me. I dreaded going to school on Mondays after spending the weekends at home surrounded by family. I think I am not alone in feeling anxiety at the beginning of the week after a weekend of love and comfort. To me, Mondays represent the start of yet another week of language deprivation and educational neglect. Now that I am more confident and have learned to embrace my Deaf identity, I want to fight for deaf children out there who are struggling with learning stimulation and language development. This issue needs to be addressed. I want students who are currently struggling in their mainstream schools to speak up. I want former students who went through similar hardships to speak up. I want parents who are currently fighting for their deaf children’s rights to speak up. I want parents who fought for their deaf children’s rights to speak up. I want all signers to stand in solidarity with the Deaf community and deaf children. We are stronger than we think. I want all of us to push for an end to language deprivation in deaf children. We need change and services. We need and demand language accessibility for deaf children.

Mary Pat: Solitary is important, we as a community should be pushing for change! Absolutely, can you share any plans you have with this hashtag?

Syra: In the light of the pandemic, I’ve had to put my Monday protests on hold. Instead, I’ve encouraged my supporters, followers, and other influencers/activists to submit their ‘hear me sign’ photos to my various social media accounts for me to share. Everyone should feel free to join me. Once we are past the pandemic, I’ll encourage my supporters to protest on the first Mondays of every month. We gotta start somewhere. I also plan to host a global-wide protest during Deaf Awareness Month. I hope to make it an annual global-wide protest until our demands are met. It’s time for deaf children to be heard.

Photographs courtesy of #HearMeSign

Mary Pat: On a more personal note, can you share with us what this hashtag means to you?

Syra:  This hashtag means everything to me. I was denied my own natural language during the crucial period of language acquisition, which then continued for another 15 years. Now I want to dedicate my life to fighting against language deprivation in deaf children globally. No child should go ever unheard. It’s time for the speaking world to learn to listen. This is a goal I’ve had since I was very young. I hope both the signing and the speaking community will work together to bring about the change that is necessary and long overdue.

Mary Pat: Any last-minute thoughts to share with our audience today?

Syra:  As for the global-wide protests, I ask you all to be part of the #hearmesign movement. To those who’ve been deprived of their visual language, speak up. To those who’ve been visually well taught, speak up. To those parents who went through trials and tribulations for their deaf children’s education, speak up. To signing parents, speak up. To the experts in law, education, academia, and social justice: speak up. To the hand experts in crafting, welding, designing, or whatever, lend your skills to unlock deaf children’s potential. To those pessimists, join if you care. To those optimists, use your creativity to make ‘Hear Me Sign’ protest signs. It takes a whole village to raise a child. Be the ‘hear me sign’ change. We should not enable this any longer. It’s fight or flight. Choose wisely. Submit your ‘Hear Me Sign’ photos to help prevent deaf children from the avoidable harmful effects of lack of education including poor mental health, insecurity, a shorter lifespan, unemployment, exploitation, etc. Thank you.

Mary Pat: Syra, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us the importance of this hashtag. If you are interested in being a part of this movement, please take some time to take a photograph of yourself with the hashtag #HearMeSign! Send it to Syra at TheSyraFactor