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Cheyenna is a Deaf influencer and young mom. Born Deaf to a Deaf family, she was raised in Washington State and moved to British Columbia, Canada a few years ago. She has been a social media influencer since 15 years old, first starting on that journey with a friend on YouTube. Their mission was to spread awareness of Deaf culture and have the world see their lifestyle through their eyes. She was part of the enriching Netflix Deaf U series and this led her to eagerly create videos of Deaf culture and showcase her lifestyle as a Deaf person.
What are some common misconceptions you’ve encountered as a Deaf influencer, and how do you address them through your content?
Often, misconceptions about the Deaf community are varied, including questioning their ability to hear and their speaking skills. I don’t speak or hear but it doesn’t mean others who are Deaf cannot hear or can choose or not choose to speak. Also, I have encountered comments that are considered audism, saying they thought Deaf people can’t read or need to use braille, which is not true. Deaf people can read and write, they don’t need to use braille because this is for people with vision loss. Deaf people do not have vision loss they have hearing loss. I simply address these with a firm explanation.
Some stereotypes hearing people have of the Deaf community are, “Deaf people should learn how to speak, they should get a cochlear implant or a hearing aid.” They suggest how to fix us but those will not. As Deaf people, we have our language, culture, and everything. We do lots in our community. We are thriving and are simply fine!
What are some of the destinations you’ve visited so far, and what made them special for you?
I have been to Guatemala, Belize, Mexico and Iceland. Guatemala is very vibrant and colourful. People there understand Deaf people and they have a natural ability to figure out how to communicate through gestures without having to speak. Just the same with Belize and Mexico.
What are some of the challenging experiences you’ve had while on your journeys?
Naturally, there are several barriers in the form of communication and most often I try to gesture or point to something. Also, I rely heavily on my phone to communicate. I also use Google Translate to communicate if it is in a different language. This is successful. Sometimes I try to read their lips to understand but this doesn’t always succeed. I think we, as Deaf people, have been so used to finding ways to communicate that at any point we will naturally figure it out on the spot, and get it done.
For announcements when something is happening while I’m travelling, for instance taking a flight or bus, this is challenging. I would have to ask someone who is sitting beside me what is going on. I must be assertive and ask around to know what is happening. Also, I inform them that I am Deaf and need to be aware if something has happened before hopping on the bus or flight.
How do you navigate communication barriers in your daily life?
As a Deaf person, I have a natural skill to be assertive and figure out on the spot how to communicate. It never really bothers me and I don’t feel awkward or scared to reach out to a hearing person. In my daily life, I rely most often on my phone to type or using a paper to write on. I will use sign language if someone knows how to sign and if not, use my phone to type my message. I love using Notepad. It is easy and has an option for hearing people to speak and it translates into words. It saves me some time.
Do you have any specific strategies that have made your journeys around your community or when travelling abroad more accessible and enjoyable?
One strategy is to inform someone ahead that I am Deaf and might need some assistance. I always do that for flights. I would inform the flight attendant that I am Deaf so they would be aware in advance. Or on a bus, I would just ask someone who is sitting beside me if something has happened. It just depends on what situation I am in and how much in advance I should be informed, but for activities, for sure I would let them know that I am Deaf.
What advice would you give to Deaf aspiring travellers who dream of exploring the world? Are there any essential tips or resources you would recommend to help them start their own journey?
I would say, always be assertive and don’t stop yourself by feeling frozen, not knowing what to do when there are communication barriers. Just go ahead and ask because you came out to travel so don’t let anything stop you from exploring or anyone tell you what you should and should not do. Carry your phone with you at all times, or paper to write on. Also, be prepared for barriers but stand up for yourself when you want to participate in activities but people disagree with what you know you can do.
Always inform people that you are Deaf, and let them know there are some areas in which you might need assistance. You’re Deaf and there’s nothing to be ashamed of! You should just go out and do what you want to do. Just be a person and don’t think “I am not sure if I can do this because I am Deaf.”
What are the most significant changes or improvements that need to be made in society to create a more inclusive and accessible world for the Deaf community?
I think the simple answer is to be aware of the Deaf community. Try to accommodate us and listen to us. Respect Deaf people, treat us as people and not from a disability perspective. We are just people, like you. Try to figure out how to accommodate us and don’t tell us, “Sorry we can’t do that,” or we’re “not trying enough” and “try to find a solution.” If you are aware, it will bring you and the Deaf community together.
Can you share some tips for aspiring Deaf influencers who want to make a positive impact in the digital space?
Just continue what you are doing, stay firm and stand up for yourself. The world can be brutal and not everyone else understand us Deaf people. Focus on the goal you want to achieve and do it without hesitation regardless of other people’s opinions or criticisms.