Deaf Culture or Disability?

9 Mar

I thought about it overnight, and decided this situation is different from race or sexuality.  I am taking a harder line.  Yes, the general public should try to be be inclusive of hard of hearing people and recognize and appreciate deaf culture.  BUT deafness is a disability.  It receives funding as a disability and is under the American’s with Disabilities Act.   Being such, it is less like a minority difference and more like a handicap or disease.  And if there’s a cure for a disease or handicap–without question it should be utilized.

As with anything, education is probably the answer to this controversy.  I will say it–this is a controversy in the first place because of ignorance.  Lack of education (ie ignorance) breeds fear.  Deaf people need better schools.  They need to know, not only how to read a standard newspaper (grade 5 skills) but how to interpret a recipe, do math, and analyse situations.  Deaf culture rails so hard against scientific progress because of unreasonable fear.  That is fine.  It is understandable.  But it is also unacceptable to deny children the ability to hear and have greater opportunity in life because of a fear of losing deaf culture.

Deaf children eligibal to receive cochlear implants should get them–and as early as possible so they can develop the speech sound skills of their peers.  Then, later on, they can learn sign language as a second language.  Their parents can teach them what deaf culture is all about.  And deaf people should be inclusive as well, and not stigmatize those with implants.

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3 Responses to “Deaf Culture or Disability?”

  1. Jozii July 14, 2015 at 1:40 PM #

    Hi 🙂

    Thank you for posting this, and for linking to my interview with Michele Westfall. My blog has been updated and now has a different name and address. The article about Michele can now be found here: http://readaninterview.com/2013/12/09/the-deaf-culture-michele-westfall-on-being-deaf-since-birth/

    I’d be very happy if you could update the link 🙂

    Johan
    Read an Interview

  2. Michele Westfall January 8, 2014 at 6:38 PM #

    You might want to rethink several statements you’ve made in your blog:
    1) It was the *hearing society* who labeled Deaf people as “disabled” and set up laws to support that label. Isn’t it our right as Deaf citizens to decide how we want to be labeled and how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us?

    2) If we receive funding, it is only because we continually are discriminated against by the hearing society, making it difficult for us to get jobs and/or to get promotions within our companies that we work for. Once the discrimination goes away, there would be no need for the funding.

    3) We don’t “rail against scientific progress”…that is completely UNTRUE. We *love* scientific progress, when it comes to things like computers, televisions with built-in caption chips, smart phones, and so on. We love all those things and we use all of these things in our daily lives. Where we draw the line is *cochlear implants,* as it does not work for many Deaf people, and requires invasive surgery and does not provide 100% communication & language access. There’s more, but you get the idea. It is not that we are “afraid”…that is not true and not the case at all. We just know what works for us and what we need to ensure communication access and quality lifestyle. Rejecting cochlear implants is a logical choice on our part, based on our experience as Deaf people.

    Most importantly, Deaf people have already gone through over a century of “speech first, sign language later”…and we have plethora of studies/research/statistics that show that this approach does *not* work, period. We now want “Sign language first, speech later”…and we’ve already amassed plenty of research that shows that this approach WORKS.

    Lastly, your blog is very dismissive of Deaf people. It wasn’t very inclusive or respectful of Deaf people at all…tsk tsk.

    • kit10phish January 9, 2014 at 6:57 AM #

      You’re right. Thank you for speaking out.

      My first exposure to Deaf culture was through the documentary “Of Sound or Fury” (or whatever it’s called). Which is what motivated me to write this post in the first place. After having taken some audiology courses, I have since decided that the movie was very biased and judgemental. A cardinal sin against the documentary format. Documentary movies are supposed to present FACTS and let the audience form their own decisions. This post takes the same tone the movies had, and I’m now finding out it is flawed and uninformed.

      Though I think I would write a different type of post today if I had it to do over, I believe it’s important to leave this up, as is. THIS is the real issue for Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and helping professions. The general public IS uninformed about the issues, and it does take some evaluation and ultimate un-doing. I’m not sure what the right way is, or if there is a RIGHT way. I now believe that I don’t have enough true knowledge to form an opinion of disability vs. Deaf either way, but am looking forward to taking more classes, working in the field, and meeting some actual people. As in most cases, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

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