A recent article at the Rim actually made me think and see things a bit clearer after recent posts over at the Tree House was questioned regarding our preferred methods of communication…. I did not know whether to laugh or feel insulted as I had not seen any evidence within the Tree House to justify said question. Dwellers were extremely quick to reinforce the ethos of the Tree House and supported the fact that it was a place where everyone could be themselves and accepted regardless of their communication needs and/or abilities. After a few moments of head banging on the wall, peace was once again thankfully restored.
At this moment in time, the rifts between certain communities could not be wider. Attitudes in today’s society seem to be going backwards that even I am disturbed to find this trait exists within our own government.
In our case, I shall use the example of the “deaf world” and “hearing world”. A lot of it comes down to other people segregating the two worlds, categorising and judging. I have not felt accepted in either “world” because of how they have perceived me to be “different” and dictated how one should be, i.e.: I was damned if I did sign/speak or damned if I did not sign/speak. Coming from a family who happened to be deaf and having signed all my life you would assume I would not present myself the way I do – why should I appear in a certain way? I am who I am and here in my world, there is only one that everyone shares. No one is categorised unless they categorise themselves and impose the two worlds onto us.
Why does there even have to be any restrictions in the first place when it comes to communication? All forms of communication should be embraced and not rejected. Surely it is an advantage if one can express themselves by different means necessary? Over time as communication evolves and improves, it will become even more enriching for us as there is nothing wrong whatsoever in being multi-lingual.
“If all my possessions were taken from me with one exception, I would choose to keep the power of communication, for by it I would soon regain all the rest.” – Daniel Webster.
E. Adamson Hoebel’s book of Anthropology: Study of Man. “describes culture as an integrated system of learned behaviour patterns which are characteristic of the members of a society and which are not a result of biological inheritance.”
Ask a British person “What is British Culture?” and they may struggle for the very first few minutes before trying to answer with possibly the majority using examples due to characteristics based on tradition, customs, habits, cuisine and environment they live in. Ask a deaf British person and most likely he will give the same answer as a British person who happens to be hearing. My question is as deaf people do we actually have a separate set of customs and traditions to the British who are hearing?
How did the deaf community start using the term “Deaf culture” when it is actually a subculture – a particular social group within a national culture? If “Culture” is not supposed to be applied to biological or genetic inheritance – is there such a thing as a hearing culture?
Are we making it hard for ourselves if we are excluding ourselves from the world around us by creating this “Deaf Culture” or is it a positive thing that should be celebrated?
Being deaf makes those of us unique in the sense that it is a hidden disability but there is a percentage who corner themselves even more so expecting the hearing world to understand them, to learn sign language and come totally their way. Those who think that, do so because they believe there is nothing wrong with them – that the negative lies within the hearing world and so they should make that effort. This again is sometimes not of their own doing when they have been so immersed with their own surroundings and peers for so long. But there are those who may go to an extreme when so proud to say “Deaf Power!” – Even several hope their children will be deaf too. They have on occasion been branded as Fascists. Yet with that kind of mentality nothing will be achieved in terms of improving services and access for deaf people in general.
Those who are able to wear hearing aid(s), have a cochlear implant or learn/choose to speak do so in order to improve the quality of their lives and in an attempt to be able to engage with the hearing world better. This is not a bad thing to want to do. To meet half way and for this reason I believe parts of the deaf community should not be looking down on these people as some sort of traitors who in their eyes are betraying the so called “Deaf culture”. The hypocrisy of these people is very clear when they rely on a hearing person or their own hearing children to be their interpreter and will not accept anything less when they can make the effort to meet half way. My point is, the more we isolate ourselves from the hearing world – the harder it will become for the hearing people to make any effort to understand us.
Extreme views are never a positive thing in any walk of life so you can only imagine (for some to an extent) my utter disbelief when someone arrogantly once said “Interpreters should be grateful to the deaf community for providing them with a job”. Some may also say that providing interpreters, and the time it takes to get one is drainage on the tax we all pay.
Just because we happen to be deaf, deafened, HoH, deaf-blind and so on, it does not mean certain attitudes, chips on shoulders etc. exist only in one part of the world that we are in – this behaviour will manifest regardless, wherever one may be. Except that it does not give anyone the right to disrespect, degrade and/or humiliate another.
There are also those who dictate to us still that we should be using the “big D or little d” to identify and potentially divide within the deaf community – once again, would you use a big H to identify and describe certain hearing people or their world? I do not even feel comfortable using the term “hearing world“ because this is everyone’s world supposedly united – for each and every single one of us. So why impose that onto our own? Or accept it even especially when it is not grammatically correct?
Sadly, people are far too easily influenced by others around them. People have for so long been telling others what to do and/or who to be and it is high time for that to stop. For people to think for themselves and stand on their own two feet, to not follow the flock just because of peer pressure. To be true to yourselves and do what you feel is right – ask questions and seek knowledge, for knowledge is power whilst striving for equality – as equals.
Now ask yourselves wherever you may be, what is “deaf culture”?
– SJ (Sara Jae)
Many thanks to SLFirst for publishing this article in their magazine.
A short while ago I was talking with a friend and as a result they posted a blog to vent their views and so did I within the comments section…. I posted the link to my facebook profile and it generated 400+ comments! I also received some private messages saying they had been told to use D/d or not to. No one has the right to dictate another what to do – educate them from all angles and then let them decide for themselves as whatever they decide will reflect their true character.
There have been and are occasionally “healthy debates” about using D/d to classify themselves and/or others. As a result, some people have chosen to refrain from using D/d and/or removed this term from their descriptions so they could not be accused of creating any divisions and also, because it is grammatically incorrect. Deaf applies at beginning of sentence whereas deaf applies after the start of a sentence.
Using D/d to include both groups is actually consciously dividing those two groups whereas using the word deaf to describe the deaf community on an united basis is much more diplomatic… Some argued that “Adjectives are used to denote identity (e.g. Black, British, Jewish etc.) often take a capital letter”. My response to that was “As for terms to denote identity such as Black, British, and Jewish etc. These are ethnic background identifications whereas being identified as deaf or hearing impaired is a medical issue, regardless of what ethnicity or origin a being is.”
There are those (i.e. huge D’s) who have massive chips on their shoulders but then again people with similar attitudes also exist in the hearing world. They will be best known for their bluntness. People tend to forget discrimination works both ways.
I have also seen on other hearing and deaf people’s articles/comments/blogs etc… That they keep using the word “Deaf” mid-sentence…. no one says ‘Hearing’ mid-sentence do they, so why do that? Someone also said to me people will say “I am Deaf” or “I am deaf” depending on how they identify themselves. I asked them, if they know of any hearing people stating “I am Hearing”??… Equality.
There are those who were born hearing yet lost that physical ability, identify themselves as being mentally hearing. A friend stating this arose the following questions:
“is there such a thing as being mentally hearing or deaf?”
“if a hearing child was born into a deaf family, would they be mentally hearing or deaf?”
I tend to lean towards describing someone as a “BSL user” as it is even more diplomatic because it would also cover hearing people who can sign too. Yet perhaps that would be too broad a spectrum. The more deaf awareness is raised and when (not if – positivity rules!) BSL is legalised, every one will have no excuse not to compute. To whatever extent is up to them as everyone has different interpretations based on their own understanding, experiences and observations. Each to their own.
Some may say we are born into certain categories which again is divisive and segregates us. Those of us who believe in equality and inclusion – regardless, will disagree as we are born to be human beings, not subjects to be subjected to such triviality. We are who we are and my name is Sara Jae – pleased to meet you.