Intellectual debate on Deaf issues
BSL translation coming soon.
There has been a spate of posts on Deaf UK and individual blogs recently discussing audism. Erick Ketcham, an American Deafist ASL user, has recently joined Deaf UK, and has contributed some thought-provoking posts on the following topics:
- There are cultural differences between the UK Deaf community and the American Deaf Community;
- There are more oralists than BSL users;
- Deaf English have an “hearing” identity, and because they cannot hear, they use BSL;
- Using the term “deafmute” will encourage audist thinking among hearing people;
- “Deafism” occurs when a Deaf person puts down or discriminates against another Deaf person;
- When Deaf people discriminate against hearing people, it is “reverse audism”;
- Parents of deaf children who are not willing to learn BSL are audists, as they are depriving their child of a normal life with full communication accessibility. This can be classified as emotional and mental abuse;
- There are two groups of hearing people: “hearing allies” and “mask of benevolence”;
- In America, oralists that refuse to sign in ASL are not considered a part of the Deaf community, and are shut out completely; and
- Research in America has shown that Deaf children that learned ASL at the same time as hearing children learned a spoken language outperform oral children by a far margin.
(By the way Erick, do you not have a blog?)
The reasons why I wanted to highlight these views here were so that non-readers of Deaf UK can read them, and also because I find them absolutely fascinating.
I’d like to respond to some of these comments:
There are cultural differences between the UK Deaf community and the American Deaf Community
Judging by Erick’s posts, I would say that this is very much clear, although I hadn’t realised just how different. There must be a number of Deaf individuals in the UK with similar views to Erick, but if there are, they’re keeping their views quiet. They need to come out of the woodwork and lead the Deaf community out of oblivion.
Deaf English have an â€œhearingâ€ identity, and because they cannot hear, they use BSL
This is not correct. I don’t use BSL because I can’t “hear”. I use BSL because I love the language and to communicate effectively with Deaf friends, colleagues and clients.
Parents of deaf children who are not willing to learn BSL are audists, as they are depriving their child of a normal life with full communication accessibility. This can be classified as emotional and mental abuse
This is an extreme view. I was brought up oral, and my family do not use BSL. However, I think to call my parents “audist” would be a step too far. They chose not to use BSL because they were led to believe by “professionals” that oralism was the way to go. Also, in recent times, with encouragement from me, my parents and my sister have agreed to learn BSL. This is due to the fact that Rachel and I are very likely to have Deaf children, and we intend to bring them up bilingually, and would like their grandparents to encourage this bilingualism, and not force the kids to conform to their preferred communication methods.
Research in America has shown that Deaf children that learned ASL at the same time as hearing children learned a spoken language outperform oral children by a far margin
I do strongly believe in this point, which is why we intend to bring our children up bilingually, with emphasis on BSL in the early stages of their development. From personal experience also, I honestly believe that if I had used BSL from childhood, I would have done better academically. All I can remember during academic studies is how hard it process information when focusing on the communication aspects of learning.
More debate on such issues is desperately needed within the UK, so keep it coming.