Valdosta Daily Times

March 10, 2014

Woman communicates deaf culture

Desiree Murphy
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — The ability to hear is something that many can never fathom losing. However, for millions of people, it is an ability they have never been given.

Communities are frequently unsure how to deal with those who are unable to hear, which is why people like local citizen Ronnie Tyson-Jones are pushing for more awareness of deaf culture.

Growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., but originally born in Moultrie, Ronnie Tyson-Jones became deaf at the age of 7, which was inherited from her father. Her gradual hearing loss became apparent when she was in the second grade. Her teacher began to notice that Ronnie did not always hear her when she called her name.

Upon this discovery, she was taken out of her initial school and moved to a school which had other deaf children in attendance. She was put into “mainstreamed” classes, which is the practice of educating students with special needs in regular classes during specific time

periods based on their skills. She remained in these mainstream classes until the 10th grade when she transferred to the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, Fla.

It was at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind that she was encouraged to pursue a college education.

“I am the only child in a family of 10 siblings to attend college,” says Jones. She attended the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N,Y., where she received both her bachelor's and master's degrees.

Having spent time working in business and industry jobs, she was finally able to land a job in her desired career path and moved back to Rochester to work as an admissions counselor for her alma mater. Finally able to return to Georgia, she worked as a counselor in Moultrie then moved to Rome to work at the Georgia School for the Deaf.

Being the youngest of her siblings, she chose to move back to Florida to help care for her aging parents, during which time she worked as a transitional counselor for the students at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind and taught American Sign Language part-time.

Finally, in 2010, she returned to her “old” job, but instead of going back to Moultrie for it, she asked for her office to be in Valdosta. She is a certified rehab counselor for the deaf and the proud mother of two sons, Xavier and Javier.

Although Ronnie Tyson-Jones is leading a productive life and has never let anything stop her, this life has not come without struggles.

“The struggles I have had in life were all dealing with people who didn't understand deaf people and/or deaf culture,” says Jones. “I have seen people freeze up the moment I inform them that I am deaf.”

When out in the community, she uses ASL so people will know that she is deaf, but not all deaf people use ASL. Some people are just hard of hearing and depend on their residual hearing and lip reading.

A huge advocate for deaf-culture awareness, Jones hopes that the community will take a new outlook on deaf people.

“Deaf people are people too! Live by the golden rule and don't treat deaf people differently. We are the same. The only difference is that we can't hear,” says Jones.

She adds, when speaking to a deaf person, keep an open mind, slow your speech, look directly at the person, have a pen and pad within reach, be receptive to hiring deaf people, do not hang up on video-relay calls as this is how most deaf people use the phone, make sure your business is accessible and willing to accommodate, and most importantly, be patient.