Diversity to many of us usually calls up different cultures, skin colour, languages and so on. There is diversity within each community, even a small community of 500 is diverse. So too is there diversity within a Deaf community. Most people think the Deaf community is composed of people that are completely deaf, and only sign. While that was once true, it has changed greatly, and continues to change rapidly. Unfortunately, many within the Deaf community prefer that it remain only signing, and are vehement about their position towards those who don’t meet their criteria.
The Deaf community as I see it contains a large group of adults and children who:
have a variety of levels of hearing loss,
born with the loss or late deafened
may use hearing aids or have a cochlear implant,
may go without a hearing aid or cochlear implant,
may use ASL, SEE or don’t sign
may be oral as I am, or speak when needed
The choices of a deaf or HOH person shouldn’t subject them to audism and bigotry from others in the Deaf community. Yet it does, and the Deaf community is extremely negative towards those that don’t sign, that have cochlear implants, or choose to be oral only.
Over the past couple of weeks there has been much debate over these topics. The majority of the people debating these topics are people who are open minded, educated on the topics, and are respectful towards others. However there are a group of individuals who choose to be negative towards others; they claim they are not judging and yet they are.
These people criticize the use of the cochlear implant, and spread misinformation, myths, and don’t cite reliable sources for their reasoning. They complain about not being accepted by the hearing, by the HOH, by those like me who is oral, and chose to get the cochlear implant. Yet they don’t accept the great diversity that is in their community. Too much focus is put on our choices and the choices made by hearing parents rather than embracing the diversity that comes from those choices.
Those naysayers, and critical, judgemental people have lost sight of the fact that the world has changed. That we have greater access to technology than we once have, that we benefit from. That those of us who are oral and living in the hearing community are representatives of the Deaf community, and are our advocates for bringing change. Change in captioning in movie theatres, on apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus, and in entertainment. They are advocates for educating the hearing on the lives and challenges of the Deaf community. They’ve lost sight of the fact that together as a whole we can bring more changes to accessibility for the Deaf.
There is an oft quoted mantra that applies here:
DIVIDED WE FALL, UNITED WE STAND
By remaining divisive within the Deaf community we will always struggle to gain the accessibility we need. We will continue to struggle to gain the assistance needed in our education, work, and everyday lives. Our children and their parents will continue to be made to choose between signing or speaking by the professionals and the Deaf in the community who should be advocating for both.
Technology is changing, and I see much of it still being optimized for the hearing population and any accessibility for the deaf population will be an afterthought. Captioning has been around for years but it is still lagging in the entertainment and media industries, just looking at YouTube, Hulu Plus, and Cinema Now reveals the lack of thought for the deaf community.
It is law in Canada and the United States that accommodations must be provided in all social services, places of employment, and businesses and yet we are still lagging behind for the deaf, as well as the blind, physically challenged, and mentally challenged individuals in our society.
So why is the Deaf Community allowing themselves to remain divided, and not accept our own diversity?
DIVIDED WE FALL, UNITED WE STAND