Deaf man says ‘we can communicate’ in response to deaf woman’s negative experience

Reporter: Sydney Persing Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Rick McClain speaks to WINK News. McClain is deaf. He teaches other deaf men and women how to take their driver’s test. Credit: WINK News.

One of our most shared stories this week centers on a mom and a daughter and a miscommunication at a McDonald’s.

Brenda Lander is deaf. During her visit to the fast-food restaurant, no one could understand her and no one bothered to try. Since Lander told her painful story, we have heard many more.

It turns out McDonald’s is not an isolated incident. Our original story didn’t surprise anyone in the deaf community. Lander shared her story with us hoping she’d empower others to do the same.

Rick McClain is also deaf.

He teaches other deaf men and women how to take their driver’s test.

We sat in on his early Wednesday morning class and then sat down with him.

“First and most important thing to recognize,” McClain said. “People are people no matter what.”

Deaf people can’t hear, but they sure do feel.

McClain is one of many who felt angry watching our interview with Brenda Lander, learning about her experience at a Mcdonald’s.

“I understand the stresses of restaurants and businesses, I understand that,” McClain said. “But to disrespect anyone for any purpose?”

McClain can’t hear, but he can communicate. He told us if you see a deaf person struggling, use a gesture, mime a sign, write it down.

“We can communicate,” McClain said. “We can communicate if we figure out a way to do it.”

Mcclain is among many people with a story just such as Lander’s.

“It happens at daytime, it happens at nighttime, it happens all over,” McClain said.

We can never truly walk in someone else’s shoes, but we can try.

That’s why McClain told us his story about buying a Muslim man a meal after a restaurant told him he was not welcome.

“I brought it down and sat with him and said, ‘You are important to me,’” McClain said. “It does not matter who, what, when, where, why, whatever. They are essential.”

There are a lot of misconceptions people have about the deaf.

The biggest one: McClain is both deaf and can speak.

McClain’s wife was behind the camera during our interview with him interpreting our questions in American Sign Language. They’ve been married for more than 40 years.

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