Yesterday, one of the hearing teachers at the Naxal School, after looking at a picture of Melissa, said, "Your wife is very beautiful. She has the skin of a Brahmin. It is because you speak so well that you have married her."
It is interesting that for many hearing people working in deaf education, the ability to speak is still equated with success and intelligence. Less than fifty years ago, deaf students in America, even at deaf schools, were forced to follow the "oral" method of education as opposed to "signed" education. Students weren't allowed to use sign language, and in severe cases, their hands were tied behind their backs.
I went to a "mainstreamed" school, and I learned to speak well after many years of speech therapy, and because I happened to have powerful hearing aids and a little residual hearing. The oral method doesn't work for everyone. A whole generation of deaf was lost in America because of forced oralism. So much time was spent trying to force them to speak that other aspects of their education were neglected.
There are very few students at the Naxal School who use speech. They are eloquent in their sign language, and read and write both English and Nepali. One of the older students believes that people in Kathmandu are quite accepting of the deaf community, and there are several deaf Sherpa guides who lead treks into the Himalaya, using handwritten notes to communicate.
Rav Bir Joshi is the only deaf elected politician in Asia, and he is able to do his job with the help of a translator. Rav Bir Joshi and Ramesh Lal Shrestha, among others, give eloquent speeches in sign language.
Of course there are advantages to being able to speak a language, but the same could be said of indigenous groups learning to speak English. Speech allows for a wider circle of communication, and an opportunity to converse with the world at large. But sign language is just as effective and useful a form of communication as any spoken language; it is just that not as many people speak it.