Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Diversity in D/deafness

How many ways are there to be D/deaf? How many D/deaf people are there now? How many D/deaf people have there ever been? How many D/deaf people will there ever be? That is how many ways there are to be D/deaf. Why is that important? Because we are all here to learn and grow. You cannot learn and grow if you have the exact same opinions and beliefs as everyone else. There is a reason why we are all different. There is a reason why we all have unique experiences and views of the world. There is a reason why it would be wrong for everyone to be D/deaf the same way. We are supposed to be different. We are supposed to bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table of life.

There is a huge chasm in the Deaf World. There are those who see the Deaf Community as the rightful place only for those Deaf who use ASL, and who, for the most part, refuse to use oral speech. Hearing parents of deaf children are allowed to participate in the Deaf Community if they also embrace ASL, and immerse their children in this community. The traitors who choose to live as Oral Deaf, are banished from The Deaf Community, and are ignored as if they simply don’t exist. Ironically, they comprise the majority of D/deaf people. The two camps then routinely send pot shots at each other, with mini skirmishes breaking out on a regular basis. The saddest part of this situation, is that both camps could accomplish way more if they could work together, than if they remain apart.

I absolutely believe that every child should be treated as an individual. There is no single best method of teaching a deaf child. There is no single methodology that works best for everyone. Implants are not the right choice in every case. ASL is also not the right answer for every child. Some children need qued speech. Some children need total communication. Some children need hearing aids. The reason there are so many options, is that somewhere, some child NEEDS that specific option to reach their highest potential. Nobody has the right to say that they know best, what is right for that child or any children simply because they share a feature. Just because you are Deaf, that does not give you the right to deny other options for D/deaf children based on what worked best for you. So you don’t like cochlear implants. You have every right to your opinion. You do not have the right to tell parents that they cannot have their child implanted simply because you say so. That right and responsibility belongs to the parents. And it always will. I believe that D/deaf children have the right to both verbal AND visual communication. They have the right to explore their own lingual strengths and weaknesses based on what works best for them, not based on limitations placed arbitrarily on them at birth or through accident or disease. To that end, I believe that the parents of those children need to educate themselves on ALL the options and choices, and give their children as many options as possible. That way, the kids themselves can choose what works best for them as they grow.

I believe the Deaf Community has an obligation to support those parents as they educate themselves. The Deaf Community needs to support those parents no matter what methodology they choose, and no matter what assistive devices they decide to use. The ongoing war between ASL Deaf and oral deaf needs to end.

The decision to remove Cochlear Implants Online off DeafRead is the wrong one. Choosing to remove differing opinions sends DeafRead backwards into isolationism. Diversity is necessary and should be celebrated, not punished. Can’t we all just get along?



elizabeth said...

Thank you for this wonderful post!
-- Elizabeth from www.cochlearimplantonline.com (and proud of it!)

Valerie said...

I completely agree with you that it is wrong to remove Cochlear Implant from Deafread. As a deaf CI person, I read all blogs not just the ones I agree with. I believe we can and should learn from each other. It is a shame they rally against censorership just to put on someone else. Shame, Shame

Boycott sponsors and boycott who the sponsor has ads with.

Rox said...

I agree with most of what you have said. It really made me think... Why are Deaf people so reluctant to be more open about these things? Then I think about all the hearing people who told me that even though I'm Deaf, I live in a hearing world. Well, no wonder! Deaf people learn a lot of these behaviors from their own parents! So... the cycle goes around and around and around. What to do?

Anonymous said...

Don't worry. Our U.S. Constitution
protects our freedom of speech. This is the land of democracy!

K.L. said...

Thanks for your comment. The thing is, she will continue what she is doing. Silencing her voice on DeafRead simply disallows the general DeafRead population from seeing what she is saying. How does this help? All voices should be allowed to be heard. Let them stand on their own merit.

Rachel is not an "employee" of Cochlear Corp. She does not make money off them, and they do not make money off her. She volunteers to advocate for the CI in general by telling her story. I see no conflict of interest in that volunteer work, and her blog. Nor do I see that they should have kicked her out, without even asking her to state clearly that she is a volunteer. They never even gave her a chance to "comply".

Anonymous said...

If I recall correctly, some time ago Tom's Deaf Advocacy blog was banned by DR editors. Don't know the reason why, but Tom is an intelligent ASL-user and has posted some very interesting articles.

It appears to me that DR editorship is arbitrary, they can bend their rules, go 'round their rules, go above their rules, and make up some more along the way. Heaven forbid that any blogger step out of line, tried and convicted without so much as a warning. DR editors can pull the feed plug on ANY blogger, regardless of stance, pro-CI, pro-ASL, HH, etc, on the flimsiest of excuses.

Does it make it right? No. Just remember this when YOUR blog gets unplugged by DR one day.


Abbie said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you!

Native ASL/CI parent and child said...

I am asking the moderator of this blog to remove itself from DeafRead in support of Rachel. I do not agree with her on some things, but what Tayler did was
W R O N G!!!

Kim said...

K.L.-- This was such a well written post. I feel exactly as you.

Kim said...

Lashing out at oral deaf and CI wearers to assuage your own anger over oralism only perpetuates disunity among the deaf. It doesn't stop CI companies, AVT, or AGBell.

What are you personally doing to make the lives of Deaf children better?? Do you educate Hearing parents about their choices? Do you reach out to them?

K.L. said...

I forsee that DeafRead will be losing followers left and right. I wonder if this blog should ask to join the Hearing For Life Foundation blog lister? We would get a wider audience, and be less reliant on DeafRead for exposure.

Christian's Mommy said...

I feel like the Deaf Community has some very inaccurate stereotypes out there about hearing parents who chose to implant their deaf children. My blog has been attacked several times by anonymous posters accusing me of being inhumane to my child and depriving him of ASL. We have decided to keep ASL in our home, and use it as just another communication tool.

Just because my son has a CI doesn't make his "deafness" disappear.

Li-Li's Mom said...

Nice, K.L.!

I'm with you entirely. I'm a fan of Rachel's site even though I occasionally differ with posts or comments. But it's a wonderful place for maintaining a continuing and usually eye-opening dialogue and a great resource for information: she's one of the pioneers who made my daughter's success with a CI possible.

The sinister element I see isn't that Rachel was dishonest about her objectives (how?! in what way?!), but that deafread is shutting down open discourse and choosing to ghettoize itself. If the welcome mat for the new generation of deaf (of which Rachel is an important member) or for newcomers to the deaf community continues to be yanked back, with a handful of exceptions, deafread will become a remote and barren field of intolerant sheep bleating about being marginalized to one another and wondering why new parents of deaf or those supported by other organizations don't hear their message.

I hope our DBC folks stand up for the flip side of that bilingual concept and object to this decision to boot Rachel simply for being pro-CI (which is what the arbitrary and capricious misuse of guidelines boils down to).

ASL CI Users said...

Native ASL/CI Parent and Child, we understand that what happened to Rachel may be unfair and support the idea that Deafread should include all kinds of deaf people and issues related to deaf (whether it's CI-related or not). We are, however, not planning on removing ourselves from Deafread because of our firm belief that we are a community. Rachel's blog represents an individual's story and opinions while ours represent the ASL-CI community as a whole (based on various blog authors, contributors, and commenters). Since we are a community that support ASL, Deafread is our source for connecting with the ASL/ Deaf community. If we remove ourselves from one "community" because of the removal of one person's blog then we are biased.
If by any chance Deafread removes more blogs that are related to CIs and supports only those who are speaking AGAINST CI, then we will consider removing ourselves. It also helps if more ASL-CI users post their objections because we represent them. Feel free to email us or post something related to this issue as long as it is just and debate-able.

starrynight said...

Well said, KL! I have learned a lot from Rachel about her experiences with the AVT approach and she seems like one of rare successes with CIs but there could be a lot more CI successes in the mainstream that we aren't aware of. Her CI success and many other CI successes with the AVT helped me decide to give my child AVT and to my surprise, she loves it! I may not agree with everything Rachel says either. However, mutual respect and diversity are the keys to a strong united deaf community.

There have been wars between oral and ASL communities for a long time but now we have an advanced CI and it makes it a lot easier for deaf children to learn spoken language. It’d be wonderful to end the wars by combining spoken English and ASL for all deaf children with CIs but it may not be an easy solution. My child is fluent in both languages so that she'd never fall through cracks! Our choice for deaf children doesn’t have to be either ASL or spoken English alone anymore but both!