American Sign Language (ASL) has steadily gained more exposure through television, movies and social media. It’s the third largest language used in the United States.
People are eagerly taking classes, watching videos, and downloading Apps to learn ASL. They’ve even created signing Holograms and included ASL in a new video game.
So, the more people that know ASL, the less communication barriers we, Deaf, will face. Deaf people will be able to be more involved in the community around us.
Or that’s what everyone thinks……
No matter how many times Nyle DiMarco posts on Twitter, how many PSAs Marlee Matlin makes, or how many episodes of Switched at Birth there are – people still have negative bias towards Deafness and low-set standards towards them.
We constantly fight to get:
Let me explain further:
Whenever we need to go to the doctor’s office, or to the Emergency room, we constantly fight for our communication rights in getting an interpreter. I’m not talking about the portable video relay interpreter (VRI) unit mind you!
You wouldn’t expect someone speaking Spanish to forgo an interpreter and be forced to communicate in their broken English and understand everything clearly? Why are Deaf people subjected to this discrimination and stress.
So, we constantly fight for communication access that WE choose, not something forced on us by administrators because it’s a cheaper alternative.
There are only 48% of the Deaf Community that are employed. Some of those who are employed are woefully underemployed. I know several that have degrees but can only get employment in unskilled jobs, like in a factory or retail.
Firstly, this change has to start early in High Schools (whether it’s a Deaf institute or a mainstreamed school) where the tendency is to steer Deaf students towards vocational training instead of higher academic goals.
Secondly, higher education institutes need to provide better accessibility to their colleges and universities (this goes back to the interpreter issue).
Thirdly, employers need to provide adequate access as well. Many just skip over potential candidates just on the disability issue alone (can’t prove it, but it’s been done).
So, we battle an unfair war to gain respectful employment.
There are State schools for the Deaf all across the U.S. and Canada who primarily teach in ASL. But even then the sign language competency is inadequate! There was a State review of the Florida School of the Deaf and Blind that revealed 82 of the teachers didn’t meet proficiency requirements. This is widespread across a lot of schools.
I attended a Deaf High School, the rumor was that some of the teachers weren’t qualified enough to teach in the Public sector so they were assigned to a Deaf School.
So, we get second-rate teachers who can’t even communicate well with us?
I see and read so many stories, as well as experienced it myself, that as soon as someone finds out that a person is Deaf – their expectations of that person drops dramatically.
Forget about the awkwardness of trying to communicate, that’s understandable if they’ve never met a Deaf person before, I’m talking about people’s instant opinion of that Deaf person. The majority of the time that opinion is that Deaf = Mentally Deficient and we’re treated as such. “Where’s your caretaker”, “Can you get someone else to sign this for you?” “How will you look after your child?” and the list goes on.
So, no matter how much exposure Deaf people get in the Media, we still encounter people who don’t believe that we can be scientists, business owners, teachers, actors, and everything else!
Putting all the above aside, we just want to be accepted for the way we are and that we don’t need to be cured or fixed in order to be a productive member of society.
We have a beautiful, vibrant, and healthy Culture that is thriving and we cherish and are proud of. We have art, poetry, movies, stories, humor, history and socialization that is unique from any other Culture in the world.
So, we continue to strive without “hearing” intervention and oppression. We just want people to stop asking about our hearing loss and whether “they” should fix it for us.
One glaring example of everything I just discussed is summed up in this video:
Now I think it’s awesome that more people are learning to sign, but we also need to get rid of the stereotypes and attitudes towards Deafness and the Deaf community.
So please, along with learning ASL - become involved in changing mentalities too.