Deaf Stories: Deaf experiences in a pre-digital world


In the days before digital technology, Deaf people used all sorts of ingenious techniques and assistive devices in everyday life. Now there’s a lot more choice, particularly with smartphones, but there are a lot of great stories to share from the days where technology was less integrated.

In Deaf Stories, Deaf community elder David Peters, who is from a third-generation large Deaf family, and certified Deaf interpreter Natalie Sandon-Stanhope, who is part of a mixed Deaf and hearing family discuss a wide range of experiences with technology, driving, communicating with hearing people, sign names, and jokes.  

In this episode of Our Deaf Ways: Deaf Stories 

  • The complexities of lip reading and how communicating with hearing people from certain cultural backgrounds, like Italian and Greek, can sometimes be easier for Deaf People. 
  • The technology Deaf people used in the past, compared to the technology options now. 
  • How the sign names of Deaf people have developed and changed over time. 


Our Deaf Ways is a series by SBS and Deaf Australia about everyday life as a Deaf person. Over this six-part visual podcast series, Deaf people from all walks of life will share stories and perspectives on Deaf Ways. 

Produced in partnership with Deaf Australia  and hosted by Deaf advocate Shirley Liu, the series features many well-known figures in the Deaf community. 

In episode two David tells a story about driving with a former hearing colleague of his, who was very nervous to be driving with a Deaf person, despite Deaf people being great drivers who use their peripheral vision a lot and actively monitor what’s happening around them.  

“It was the first time he'd seen a Deaf person drive a car. You could see the anxiety in his face. 

The next day, he left me a note in the workplace saying, I just couldn't believe how good a driver you were and I told my wife, I was in such culture shock.’” 

While there can be culture shock between hearing people and the Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing community, there are some instances where communication can be slightly easier. 

I have noticed that some cultural groups are more likely to use gesture and are more visual communicators,” Nat says. 

Italian people use gesture, and Carlton is a great place to converse. It feels great, less effort in communicating is nice.

David also notes how his father found it quite easy to community with Greek workers in the construction industry. 

“The Greeks were doing a lot of concreting at the time, and they got on like a house on fire, because you know what the Greeks are like. They use a lot of mime and gesture. They could understand each other. It was wonderful,” he says. 

Watch the second episode of Our Deaf Ways now. New episodes will be released fortnightly. Follow the series on the SBS Australia YouTube channel,  Apple Podcasts and Pocket Casts. 

Our Deaf Ways is hosted by Shirley Liu. Produced and directed by Paula Thornton. Edited by June Stathis. 

Deaf Australia and SBS acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and pay our respects to their Elders past and present. We extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who are watching with us. 

Deaf Australia and SBS celebrate Auslan and recognise all Deaf leaders in Australia who have advocated for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing communities. Deaf Australia is proud of everyone’s contribution, whether big or small, in preserving our language, community and culture.