People around the world are seeing a new (we’ve been around long time) generation of Deaf people achieve what is achievable, there are endless online platitudes splashed across social media, recognizing amazing Deaf people who are performers, writers, business owners, doctors and list goes on.
It has long been taboo to talk about the possibilities of and by Deaf people, some of that attitude do linger today.
It’s world hearing day. According to a report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019, roughly half of people aged 12-35 are at risk of hearing loss, and this number is expected to increase. The report also warns that listening to loud music using headphones for extended periods of time and being exposed to loud sounds from events such as live music causes increased risk of hearing loss.
Hearing loss is an invisible disability, not only because of a lack of visible symptoms, but also because it has long been stigmatized by society and the government. The medical/pharma industry says hearing is essential for maintaining relationships and connections, to hear people would do well with their friends, family, fully participating in the team, at work and community activities. They say hearing makes it possible to engage, listen, laugh, and enjoy many things that shape their lives.
What does that imply about me and the Deaf* people? The ‘hearing world day’ statement has created an ideology about us, in writing policies that oppressed our growth in language development & fair academics and the huge medical industry that profits from us. I, and the Deaf communities, have value in life. We study, work, raise families, enjoy the company of friends & coworkers, and travel. We are human beings, no different from abled hearing people. We communicate differently, and because of misguided belief, our Sign Languages are not officially recognized equal to English and French yet.
I was born deaf, trained to speak, lipread and listen with hearing assisted devices until I couldn’t anymore. I own a business and run organizations. I am married to a great man who learned to sign to communicate with me and instil bilingualism in our non-deaf children. My deafness does not cut me off from people, I have accommodated different ways to communicate with people and businesses.
We need to end the stigma of fearing hearing loss influenced by the medical system that it is an end all. Yes, people take care to preserve their hearing when they can, but if they face hearing loss, they are NOT alone. There are tons of publications and information written ABOUT Deaf people from the perspective of abled hearing people. It tells people what they cannot do, never what they can do without false hopes (again non-deaf perspective) and experienced culturally Deaf people can tell you differently.
“Laws are created that affect Deaf people, our education, are often drafted by non-deaf people with good intentions but with little or no insight on the Deaf experience and/or perspective. They blissfully go about their day, unaware of their impact, Deaf people struggle to pick up the pieces of the damage left behind,” quoting Bee Vicars.
I am here to tell you the world can accommodate easily when providing the right resources by listening to lived experience Deaf people. We do not have to behave like non-deaf people, it does not work neither is it good for our mental health. There are TONS of academic PHD research by Deaf people who prove this that are being overlooked and focusing on non-deaf perspectives, ironic eh. Think of it in this way, stairs are accessible but ramps are even better for all. Same way Sign Language is for us, but for many in language barrier society and where listening and speaking is not available, Sign Language provides access for all. You can sign to the person through a window on the 2nd floor from across the street.
The problem society has is not about deafness, its their views on Deaf people and sign language. Did you know Sign Language activates parts of the brain in ways that spoken language doesn’t. Human language is not restricted to the oral-aural modality! Embrace Sign Language that stimulates human connection.
Let’s change the narrative on hearing world day to rid of dread and embrace the possibilities. Engage with Deaf community and desire authenticity as you won’t get it from non-deaf people. Let’s not remain silent any more!
I am an Inclusive Communicator. I care deeply for the success of accessibility, equity and inclusion programs I provide. In my teaching I incorporate my art. As an artist, I can showcase the experience and lives of the diversity of Deaf people in order that the people I teach can see them as real people with their own skills, ideas and values. Let’s connect!
*I use the word ‘Deaf’ as an inclusive term for all Deaf, hard of hearing, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, cochlear users and late-deafened people.
Please note that American Sign Language (ASL) is my primary language so my English may not be perfect