“Only seven percent of communication is verbal,” signs Bart Koolen. “The other 93 percent is non-verbal. That’s the 93 percent deaf people use… Why don’t we use our power to make choices, and choose for visual communication.”
Koolen, who lost his hearing at a year-and-a-half after contracting meningitis, believes that learning sign language is an idea worth spreading. Of course, to use sign language, you don’t have to make yourself deaf, he quips, that’s not necessary.He presented several instances where all of use that other 93 percent of communication. If you go on holiday and don’t speak French, you sign to try to make yourself understood. If you are speaking with someone on the other side of a window, you can’t hear each other, so you sign. If you are diving, it’s impossible to communicate verbally, so you use hand gestures and body language.
“Sign language is not just the hands,” he signs. “It’s visual expression, body language. It’s a three-dimensional language,” which hearing people don’t really make use of. He also pointed out the differences in sense of humour: hearing people tell jokes that end in a point. Deaf people use the three dimensions, and the entire story is funny.
While deaf people may not be able to use that seven percent of communication that is verbal, they have four other senses they use to experience the world, and these other senses work better than those of hearing people. Let’s make better use of that other 93 percent of communication, and start listening with our eyes.