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Starting to Understand the Deaf Community

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Michelle Row

on 14 October 2013

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Transcript of Starting to Understand the Deaf Community

Four factors are required to protect the human rights of Deaf people:
The mandate of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) is to ensure human rights for Deaf people all over the world, in every aspect of life.

This is accomplished by:
the WFD advises the United Nations and its agencies on specific issues and policies which affect Deaf people.
It supports Deaf associations throughout the world by providing consultancy, expertise and advice.

A bilingual approach is employed where sign language is used for instruction in all subjects combined with a strong emphasis on teaching reading and writing skills in the country's language. This method has had positive results because it supports the natural learning and communication environment of a Deaf child.

Bilingual education has become more widespread in North Europe and North America which has led to an increased literacy level and a strong language base,

Sign language interpreters are the vital link between the Deaf community and the hearing community. Accessibility to government services or other necessary services requires the skills of a to sign language interpreter to provide equal access for the Deaf. The availability and cost of these services, including interpreter training programs, should be society's responsibility so as not to create economic disadvantage for the Deaf person or Deaf association.

Sign language is not universal. It varies from country to country. Each sign language used by the Deaf community is part of the country’s cultural, social, historical and religious heritage.

Barriers for Deaf people lie in lack of accessible information ranging from direct interaction with other people to other sources such as official documents and mass media. The availability of sign language interpreters is paramount in accessibility to direct interaction with others . Improved accessibility to other information rests on sign language presence and translations. Deaf people’s capacity to make free and informed decisions are dependent on accessibility.
The highest degree of human rights for Deaf people is based on the recognition and respect for Deaf culture and identity. Language and culture share a symbiotic relationship in the lives of Deaf people with sign language serving as the core. Deaf people would be isolated from the rest of society without sign language.

Deaf children are born with the same basic capacities for learning and language as all children.
Deaf children deserve access to equal and quality education to reach their full potential as human beings.

International Week of the Deaf is celebrated annually by deaf people worldwide during the fourth week of September.
World Federation of the Deaf was established in Rome, Italy on September 23, 1951 during the first World Congress of national Deaf associations. It is one of the oldest international organizations of people with disabilities in the world.
The term „''Deaf people''‟ includes a wide spectrum of people with hearing differences from moderate to profound, from various backgrounds, races, ages, creeds, ethnicities, and philosophies and with different levels of linguistic variables.

(2009, Statement on Deaf Peoples Right to Drive a Car or Other Vehicles)
Deaf people even have to defend their right to drive an automobile.
There are about 72 million Deaf people in the world.
In developing countries, most of the Deaf people do not get any education.
Approximately 80 % of Deaf people do not have any access to education.
Only about 1-2 % of the Deaf get education in sign language.
The literacy rate among Deaf children is far below the average for the population at large.
Illiteracy and semi-literacy are serious problems among Deaf people.
(2013, World Federation of the Deaf)
(2007, Education rights for deaf children)
(2013, World Federation of the Deaf)
Human Rights
Inquiry Questions
What is the definition of deaf?
How many people are deaf?
What are the causes of deafness?
How can human rights for the deaf population be improved?
Are there advantages to being part of this group?
Are there disadvantages to being part of this group?
What is the stigma surrounding this group?
What do deaf people suggest to improve equality for themselves?
Who are some potential allies or what qualities are present in an ally?
How can this population be better served by the counselling profession?

(2013, World Federation of the Deaf)
(2013, World Federation of the Deaf)

Hearing impairment may be inherited. It may be caused by fever, maternal rubella, complications at birth, certain infectious diseases such as meningitis, use of ototoxic drugs, exposure to excessive noise and aging.

The World Health Organization affirms that about half of all deafness and hearing impairment can be prevented if common causes were dealt with through public health actions. These actions include:
• immunization
• healthy ear and hearing care habits
• effective treatment for both acute and chronic ear conditions.

Hearing impairment is the inability to hear as well as someone with normal hearing. Hearing impaired people can be hard of hearing (HOH) or deaf. Deafness is defined as the complete loss of hearing in one or both ears.
(2013, WHO)
(2013, WHO)
Can Hearing Loss Be Prevented?

If left untreated, hearing loss:
affects communication
can contribute to social isolation
can contribute to anxiety and depression
can result in cognitive decline

Disadvantages of Hearing Loss
Deaf people tell good stories that are entertaining, informative and expressive.
Deaf people understand non-spoken communication. They can read faces and emotions.
Words become the superpower of Deaf people.

Advantages of Hearing Loss
(2013, 10 Facts About Deafness)
Family members, medical professionals, teachers and employers can become allies by learning sign language to improve communication with deaf people.
(2013). CPC Computer Prompting & Captioning Co. What are closed captions?,
retrieved on October 13th, 2013, http://www.cpcweb.com/faq/what_is_cc.htm
(2006). Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, retrieved on October 11th,
2013, http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml
(2007). Education rights for deaf children. retrieved on October 11th,2013,
Gallaudet University. (2013) retrieved on October 12th,2013, http://www.gallaudet.edu/
Lane, H. (1995). Construction of Deafness, Disability and Society, 10 (2), 171-189.
Lane, H. (2005). Do deaf people have a disability?, Sign Language Studies, 2 (4), 356-379.
Lane, H. (1999). The mask of benevolence: disabling the deaf community. San Diego,
CA: Vintage Books. pp. 13-23.
Nash, J. (1981). Deafness in society. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company
Lexington Books.
Oldale, M. (October 2008). The impact of signing in the counselling room, Healthcare
Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal, 8 (4), 22-25.
Sheppard, K. & Badger, T. (November 2010). The lived experience of depression
among culturally deaf adults, Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing,
17 (9), 783-789.
Titus, J. & Guthmann, D. (2010). Addressing the black hole in substance abuse
treatment for deaf and hard of hearing individuals: Technology to the rescue,
Journal of the American Deafness & Rehabilitation Association (JADARA), 43
(2), 92-100.
(2009). Statement on deaf peoples right to drive a car or other vehicles, retrieved on
October 11th,2013,http://www.wfdeaf.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/WFD-
Valente, J. (2011). d/Deaf and d/Dumb: A portrait of a deaf kid as a young superhero.
New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.
Valente, J. (2011). Hearing the unheard, retrieved on October 11th, 2013,
(2013) What is a TTY? retrieved on October 13th, 2013,
World Federation of the Deaf. (2013) retrieved on October 10th, 2013,
(2013) World Health Organization. Deafness and hearing loss, retrieved on October
10th, 2013, http://www.who.int/topics/deafness/en/
(2013). World Health Organization. 10 facts about deafness, retrieved on October
10th, 2013, http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/deafness/en/index.html
(2011, Hearing the Unheard) (2011, Valente)
The Deaf are seen to be disabled because of a loss of hearing. They are often isolated and feel alone in mainstream education where they are marginalized and labeled as dumb because of the educational institutions practice of putting them in "special education" classes.

90% of deaf people are born to hearing parents (They do not share the same language as their parents.)
Most deaf students have a fourth grade reading level at high school graduation
25 % of deaf students graduate from college
60 % of deaf adults are unemployed
How to Reduce Marginalization and Stigma
Do not refer to deaf people as disabled. They are visual learners with their own language, community and culture. They belong to a minority linguistic group.

Schools for the Deaf that provide bilingual education are the preferred method of instruction. There are 200 sign languages in the world.
(2011, Hearing the Unheard)
(2011, Hearing the Unheard)
As an ally, ask members of the Deaf community what they want to have happen and how you can support their goal.
The Reality
Valente states ""At this point in my life, I am simply not ready to offer any concessions to the machinations of hearing world domination."" (2011, p. 12)
Many members of the deaf community are against cochlear implants which they see as the hearing community's way of othering them and trying to make them like the majority population. The Deaf advocate for an environment filled with sign language.
(2011, Hearing the Unheard)
More on Stigma
Lane (2005) says that Deaf people find the term disability hurtful. He states that hearing individuals socially construct deafness as a deficit in ""The members of the deaf community are not characteristically isolated, or uncommunicative, or unintelligent, or childlike, or needy, or any of these things we imagine them to be."" (1995, p. 20)
Teachers label deaf children as emotionally disturbed or learning disabled. Lower than average achievement is a result of this practice. ""Deaf children are drowning in the mainstream.""
(1999, Lane)
(1999, Lane)
Gallaudet University is the only University in the world that offers all classes, programs and services to accommodate deaf students.
(2013, Gallaudet University)
Nash describes Deaf as a cultural identity and deaf as a physical condition. (1981, p. 71)
Tools to Address Obstacles
TTY (text telephone) is a device that helps deaf people communicate using a telephone.
Closed captioning (CC) is text that appears on television video which contains dialogue and audio cues. It makes video accessible to those who are deaf or hard of hearing, for viewers whose native language is not English, and for situations when the audio cannot be heard due to noise or a need for quiet spaces.
Sign language interpreters provide a bridge in communication between deaf and hearing people.
(2013, What is a TTY?) (2013, CCP)
Applications to Counselling
Deaf adults are rarely screened for depression due to communication barriers, most notably the lack of sign language among health professionals.
Depression screening tools are not easily translated into sign language.
Deaf patient's feel that interpreters are unwelcome in the clinical setting.

The use of sign language during counselling has been shown to increase the affective responses between the client and the counsellor.

Deaf children feel defective because they cannot hear. Deaf individuals are stared at and laughed at by others. This can lead to a feeling of hopelessness as adults. Communication barriers can result in: isolation, low self-esteem, feeling ostracized, feeling like a burden, abuse and inadequate health care.
(2010, Sheppard & Badger)
Deaf and hard of hearing people struggle with substance abuse.
Very few specialized treatment programs, such as Minnesota Chemical Dependency Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals, exist for this demographic due to the relative small Deaf population in geographic locations.
Funding cuts have led to closures of specialized treatment programs.
Few, if any, treatment staff members are fluent in sign language.
Interpreter access is limited or non-existent. Therefore, these individuals miss out on communication and interactions that are vital to treatment.

Technology has begun to be used to connect hard of hearing individuals to Deaf facilitators. Examples of this technological support includes web-based Twelve Step meetings. web conferencing for group counselling sessions, a screening tool in American Sign Language (ASL). A second screening tool is currently being developed. ""Technology has the potential to dramatically improve the state of affairs for access to appropriate treatment, ongoing support, workforce development, and assessment.""
(2008, Oldale)
Substance Abuse Treatment:
(2010, Titus & Guthmann)
Reflection of My Learning
I found this project to be fascinating. I learned alot about a topic that I knew very little about. I have had very limited interaction with people from the Deaf Community. I worked with a Deaf lab technologist in Edmonton for a couple of years. I learned a small amount of ASL so that I could better communicate with him. Being frustrated by my limited sign language vocabulary prompted me to take a beginner level sign language class. I got to practice this skill with my co-worker and my cousin, who is an interpreter. I also attended a few functions in the Deaf Community with my cousin to learn a little bit about Deaf culture. I sadly report that I have fallen out of practice with sign language.

The part that really hits home with me now is the structural mechanisms that keep oppression in place towards Deaf individuals. I read and heard this multiple times throughout my research gathering for this project.

My Learning's Impact on My Worldview
This project has increased my awareness. I see how oppression functions with regards to the Deaf population. It has made me committed to becoming an ally. It has changed my belief in the term disability. I did not fully realize that referring to someone as disabled is a way to other them by implying that they are "less than". I now understand that Deaf individuals are not disabled, they are members of a language minority. They are part of the world's diverse population that I will continue to celebrate.
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