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Deaf Culture (4)
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Submitted by Jane Brown
11/06/04

Why Fix It If It Isn't Broken?

Hearing people have a reality that incorporates sound.  For hearing people, the ability to hear, like any other sense, is cherished.  With this in mind, it's a common assumption that the hearing view the deaf as handicapped.  As most hearing people believe, a reality that does not incorporate sound is assumed an unfortunate incompleteness.  According to deaf people, this assumption is far from the truth.

Most deaf people value their deafness just as those who hear value their hearing.  To take it even further, the deaf classify themselves as having their own culture, defined as "deaf culture," and use American Sign Language as their form of communication (Young, 2002).

King Jordan, President of Gallaudet University, the only deaf and hard of hearing school in the world, argues that when he's in the hearing world, he's considered different (Bowser, 2001).  But when he's among the deaf community, he's noted for his individual talents aside from his deafness (Bowser, 2001).

Cathy Young in her article, "Does Curing Deafness Really Mean Cultural Genocide?," compares deafness to homosexuality (Young, 2002).  Those who don't understand homosexuality believe that it's a condition that should be fixed (Young, 2002).  Gay activists work to remove the negative connotation that homosexuals suffer from (Young, 2002).  Deaf activists are working toward the same goal (Young, 2002).  They are educating those who believe that deafness is a deficiency (Young, 2002).

Because hearing people believe that deafness is a deficiency, they work to correct the problem.  Through science, Cochlear Implants have been invented (Allen, 2000).  The implants are electronic devices that allow the deaf to perceive sound (Allen, 2000).  The implants are becoming very popular.  The deaf culture feels threatened, however, and believes that the implants are undermining their culture (Bowser, 2001).  If they had a choice, they would choose to be deaf (Bowser, 2001).  Furthermore, the deaf culture believes that those who are profiting from the implants do so with no regard or consideration of the deaf culture (Allen, 2000).

The deaf culture needs no sympathy (Bowser, 2001).  They are angered when people pity them (Bowser, 2001).  People who feel sorry for the deaf don't understand that the deaf are fully capable of functioning without the help of others, that they are able to live normal lives (Bowser, 2001).

Jason Lamberton, a 20 year old student, confesses that hearing would make life easier but then argues that if he were to hear and speak, it would ruin his identity (Bowser, 2001)  Deaf people have the same successes as hearing people do (Bowser, 2001).  They are happy (Bowser, 2001).  They don't believe their deafness is an issue (Bowser, 2001).

Gallaudet student council president, Chris Soukup, argues that the deaf culture "involves an acceptance and a celebration of who we are as people, and it's also a celebration of all of the accomplishments that we've made since the beginning of time. We have done so much for ourselves in terms of progressing and advancing as a community, and also asserting, you know, the culture that we believe very strongly in to the outside world." (Bowser, 2001).

It's difficult to understand other people's reality.  We're ignorant when we make assertions based on assumptions.  Becoming informed about different cultures builds a better understanding and respect for others.  It helps us to become a more tolerant and cohesive society.

References

Allen, Arthur.  (2000, May 24). Sound and Fury. Salon.com. Retrieved 6, Nov.
2004: <http://dir.salon.com/health/feature/2000/05/24/cochlear/index.html>

Bowser, Betty Ann. (2001, Feb 19). Technology and Deaf Culture. PBS. Retrieved 6, Nov. 2004:
<http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/health/jan-june01/deaf_advances.html#>

Young, Cathy. (2002, April). Does Curing Deafness Really Mean Cultural Genocide? Reasononline. Retrieved 3, Nov. 2004: <http://reason.com/0204/co.cy.sound.shtml>




Discussion

In a message dated 10/18/2007 5:34:37 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, dorcastchogoue@ writes:
Dear  Bill
In reading the material in your culture 4 page i got this:
"The deaf culture feels threatened, however, and believes that the implants are undermining their culture. If they had a choice, they would choose to be deaf."
In fact i'm confused by this statement because the hearing people don't really need the implants, so if the deaf are happy with their condition why are they buying them?
                                                                           Best regards!
                                                                                 Dorcas

Hello Dorcas,
Let's do a comparison to see if we can shed some light on the subject.
Why do some women buy breast implants?  Such implants are expensive and sometimes cause serious medical problems. 
If women are happy with their condition why are they buying breast implants?
Responses:
Not all women are buying breast implants.
Some women see breast implants as the solution to a problem, (societal pressure to be a certain way).
Many women feel threatened by ever increasing societal pressure to be a certain way.
Many women, even those who get breast implants, would rather there not be any pressure to get implanted.
Now, substitute the word "Deaf" for women, and the words "cochlear implant" for breast implants.
Cordially,
Dr. Bill
 


 


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