Julia Lenart

Hands up – a unique exhibition

The Schottenstift in Vienna is currently hosting an amazing exhibition. It is called Hands up and it gives unique insight into the world of deaf people. Visitors experience life with deafness at first hand.

At first there is silence

Deaf guides lead the visitors through the exhibition. First, everyone gets ear plugs and noise cancelling headphones, so they hear absolutely nothing. It can be a bit overwhelming, hearing nothing but your blood flowing through your veins. At first it feels like being shut out of the world. But you will get used to it and finally you won’t even feel shut out at all.

During the tour it is not allowed to talk – not that anybody would hear you anyway. But you quickly adapt to the new situation. Communication does not necessarily need spoken language after all.

An interesting tour

The tour is really interesting and quite entertaining. Participants learn basic vocabulary of sign language, trying to interact with each other using just their mimic and gestures. The exhibition gives incredible insight into everyday life of deaf people. Hearing seems to be such a normal thing to most of us, that we don’t even think about what life without our hearing sense would be like. For example, how would you know, if someone is at the door, if you can’t hear them knocking? How do you wake up in the morning – without an alarm clock? How do you make a deaf person recognize you, when you can’t just shout out to them? Do deaf people experience music?

The tour gives answers to all of these questions. Participants experience them first hand. It is a truly unique experience.

Broadening your horizon

Deaf people are met with difficulties in everyday life, that most people do not even recognize. Being confronted with those, makes you think. What seems like a simple everyday task, can become quite a barrier, when you shut out your hearing ability – like using the telephone booth. The exhibition gives examples of accessibility in public places and it points out, what still needs to be done.

Furthermore, there is a short historic overview that gives insight into the lives of deaf people over the centuries. Most of it is overshadowed by discrimination and exclusion. Only in the late 20thcentury deaf people seem to have reached an equal stance in society – but there is still much to be done!

Deaf people need more awareness – the discussion must become a central one in society. We need inclusion, not exclusion, for we are all human beings and we should embrace our diversity! Hands up really helps raising awareness and working towards inclusion. Totally recommendable!

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