I just read this post by Mark Drolsbaugh at Deaf Culture Online: http://www.deaf-culture-online.com/mainstreaming-vs-deaf.html. It’s about the different levels of social interaction that his son experiences at various summer camps. I liked the article because it really emphasizes how essential peer interaction is. It also shows that even if you aren’t 100% fluent in ASL, it can often times be easier for someone who has a hearing loss to be included in an all-deaf environment. I’ll never be able to completely relax when depending on my hearing to socialize, but with sign language I’m on equal footing, if still a beginner. I can learn ASL, I can’t really learn to hear better.
I’ve experienced this myself to some extent. Mostly it is the awareness level of people. There were hardly any other deaf students in my engineering classes at RIT, but because 10% of the undergraduates at RIT came from NTID and were deaf, I never had to explain to anyone what they could do to help me. They had all been caught in an elevator with 15 signing deaf people. They had all had to communicate with pen and paper or by speaking clearly, enunciating and repeating if necessary. And no one ever assumed I was stuck up because they thought I was ignoring them. That awareness extended into the Rochester community as well. I haven’t experienced it anywhere else since then.
That is how mainstreaming is supposed to work – creating equal access and awareness for all. Unfortunately it takes a critical mass of population to accomplish this. Even in Washington, DC, home of Gallaudet University, I didn’t encounter the awareness level that I did in Rochester.
Anyway… The Deaf Culture Online site is a very good resource for anecdotes and insight into what Deaf people experience.