Beingdifferent is rarely ever a bad thing, yet some people use it as an excuse todiscriminate and shed a negative light over others.
The Deaf community has beendiscriminated against for hundreds of years and continues to be. They’re normalhuman beings, just like everyone else, that are capable of doing just aboutanything. The only thing that makes them different from others is the fact thatthey can’t hear and speak another language.
While deafness has historicallybeen viewed as a physical impairment associated with disabilities like cognitive,and mobility impairments, the view of deafness as a culture has recently cometo light and does not consider it as a disability, but as a trait. Thesebeliefs constantly conflict each other making it difficult for the AmericanDeaf community to feel empowered and equal in a country that continues to haveattitudes of paternalism and audism towards them.In1991, the Americans with Disabilities Act was created as a civil rights lawthat prohibited discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areasof public life. This included jobs, schools, transportation, and all public andprivate places that are open to the public (“Americans with Disabilities Act”).
The purpose of this law was to make sure that anyone with a disability stillhad the same rights and opportunities as any other person would.Withthis act in place, adults were protected from discrimination in the workplacewhich included being hired, fired, receiving raises, how much their income wasgoing to be, etc. and gave them a greater opportunity to be able to functionnormally in society. This law has become incredibly important and has made ahuge impact on the Deaf community because it provides a sense of hope for thosewho seek employment. But as great as this law was for the Deaf community, itonly gave the hearing world more of a reason to consider the Deaf as disabled. Attimes, they are still refused these accommodations due to the ignorance thatstill exists. As Lydia Callis said, “Institutions should always be prepared forwhatever situation may come along and be able to cater to our diversepopulation. Organizations who refuse to provide equal access as required by theADA not only earn themselves a bad reputation within the Deaf community, theyalso potentially open themselves up to a discrimination lawsuit”.
Audism is one of the largest ways of discrimination towardsthe Deaf community and since it doesn’t directly affect the hearing community,it’s not discussed very often. It’s defined as discrimination that is based onone’s ability, or lack of ability to hear. So basically, it’s the action of onefeeling superior based on another’s ability to hear or behave around a personwho can hear. A lot of people who aren’t deaf have never even heard of audismor that such a thing even exists. However, it is very easily recognizable tothe Deaf community and sometimes may be seen as a threat to their culture(Jones). One place that they encounter a lot of audism is in Deaf education andother corporate institutions that deal with deafness. It’s believed that theeducators, administrators, and professionals within these organizations act ina way that is meant to dominate the Deaf community (Jones).
Not only do actionslike these offend the Deaf, they also make them feel like the institutions aretrying to oppress deaf culture. Onething that keeps this growing community strong is how important empowerment isto them. Empowerment is the process of becoming confident and stronger incontrolling one’s life and claiming their rights. Since they are considered aminority group, they only look up to and depend on a few people to lead andguide the development of the community, and who other than the Deaf communitymembers themselves to facilitate their success. A couple of ways that theseleaders help spread this empowerment is by showing and teaching the youths ofthe community the expectations they should have for themselves and the Deafcommunity, and actions on how to achieve their goals (Jones). They communicateusing their native language, sign language, which is very important for dailylife and they contribute to the language development by helping those thataren’t as exposed to the language which brings the community even closertogether. One important thing they do is to encourage each other to pursuetheir passions and participate in the Deaf community through art, film,festivals, deaf clubs, and many other things to show how Deaf people feel andthink about their culture (Jones).
Being able to express themselves gives themthat feeling of equality everyone in America deserves. One thing that is for certain, there are a couple of conflictsthat rise within the American Deaf Community of being both a distinct cultureand seen as a disabled group. Since Deafness was discovered, it has always beenseen as a disability. People see it as an impairment because not being able tohear interferes with a person’s ability to respond to environmental cues, tocommunicate verbally, and to enjoy mainstream things like listening to music.Devices like cochlear implants, assistive listening devices, and hearing aids canlessen the effects of deafness and in some ways, give Deafness a bad reputation.
People see the use of these items as a way to fix their hearing problems so thatthey’re able to fit in with the hearing world. But recently in the past few decades,there have been advocates of deafness that show more and more people why the Deaf-Worldshould be seen as a culture and why it’s no longer something that needs to be “fixed”but rather accepted (Jones). Deaf culture is just like any other culture, they usuallybehave similarly, share the same beliefs, and use the same language. Although we live in a land that is supposed to be free andequal, deaf citizens continue being oppressed by a lack of equal access. Whenwill society accept that Deaf people are capable of everything hearing peoplecan do except hear? Deaf citizens all around the world deserve equalopportunity. Even though Deafness has been considered as a disability since it firstbecame discovered, it does not make anyone who is deaf any different than you. Noone should have to be labeled as disabled just because they’re different.