For children who are deaf or hard of hearing, the world can be a difficult place to navigate. Not many people understand American Sign Language, and those who can’t hear can often feel unsafe or even unwelcome in some places. But for Shaylee Mansfield, of Texas, there was one magical place where everybody went out of their way to make her feel welcome.
Happy 10th to Shaylee, my first-born daughter! When people come over, you are the best host. You sure know how to crack…
Shaylee Mansfield, 10 years old, and her parents look just like any Texas family. But one thing about them is different: they are all deaf and native users of ASL (American Sign Language).
When Shaylee was just 4, she had the chance that every kid dreams about—a trip to Disney World. Of course she loved the rides and attractions, but what really made the trip special was meeting one of her idols, Tinkerbell. The legendary fairy from Peter Pan used some incredible magic that day, introducing herself in ASL
Disney’s “Unforgettable Stories” video of Little Shaylee, wearing a pretty green dress just like Tinkerbell, shows how blown away she was as the fairy signed her name, “T-I-N-K.”
From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you all for spreading the joy of signing! Happy Holidays from the Mansfield/ASL Nook family.
The fact that Tinkerbell took the time to communicate with Shaylee in her own way meant ever more because for her mom and dad, things weren’t so easy when they were kids. As she told the Disney team, “when I was growing up, I never expected anyone to sign. That was the world I grew up in.”
Disney felt like the story embodied what’s best about their work and invited the family back a few years later for another visit and more interaction with the cast members. This time, Shaylee got to meet Minnie Mouse, who also signed with her.
Minnie asked her name and told Shaylee that she was just learning to sign herself. Shaylee congratulated Minnie on her efforts: “Good job, that’s great!” Shaylee’s dad, Manny, was so moved to see the lengths Disney had gone to make his daughter feel welcomed and accepted. “It made her proud of her language,” as he said in the video.
— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) February 26, 2016
As he and his wife, Sheena, got to see their girls having such a good time at the park, they really felt the Disney magic. Mom Sheena said, “it brings out the best in me and makes me become a kid again, seeing this through their eyes.”
The Mansfield family have been busy over the past few years, promoting awareness about the deaf community in the United States, and even helped co-create a TV show called “Deaf Out Loud” for A&E. Their motto is “not about us, without us,” meaning that deaf people need to be allowed to tell their own story rather than having others explain it for them.
Shaylee’s younger sister, also featured in the Disney video, is not hearing-impaired, but she signs fluently, and the family only uses ASL at home. Sheena has created a series of hilarious and adorable videos on Facebook, where she interviews her girls about attitudes toward deaf people and sign language.
What Disney did for them that made all the difference was talking to them in their own language, making them feel like they were part of the family. As dad Manny said in the video, “the moments I remember most in my life are when I see someone truly happy.”