Thursday, September 28, 2006

350: Concrete Audism

What are Audistic behaviors? My new book of the week is Glickman's "Mental Health Care of Deaf People: A Culturally Affirmative Approach." This awesome book has a list of abusive responses to deaf/Deaf people by hearing people which I would like to examine. I want to help further the discourse on Audism currently happening at Gallaudet and elsewhere. I reproduce a short list here, with my comments:

  1. Drawing erroneous and damning conclusions from inappropriate psychological testing. ("Do you hear voices?" "No, I'm Deaf.")
  2. Diagnosing deaf people as mentally retarded, autistic, or schizophrenic, and allowing them to languish in institutions. (I remember one woman from MSSD, very sweet, who had been in an institution for several years because nobody realized she was deaf.)
  3. Holding a medical conception of what it means to be deaf-deafness as a pathology, a handicap, and a tragedy-and therefore believing that deaf people need to be "fixed."
  4. Believing that deaf people are disabled not just in being unable to hear, but intellectually, emotionally, and morally. (I see this all the time.)
  5. Promoting the idea of the psychology of deafness, that deaf people are unintelligent, egocentric, concrete, irresponsible, impulsive, immature, paranoid, and so on. (Ironic! I often see the same people who complain about divisiveness in the Deaf community, go on to say that "All Deaf people are..." It's the same with women's studies: the men complain that they are being left out, then immediately go on to say "Well, all women do this and this," and don't see why the women are pissed off.)
  6. Actively discriminating against Deaf people in hiring and promotions. (Mostly because of access. I will be talking about this book's take on access, and my own attendance at a speech Glickman gave, as soon as I have the time.)
  7. Showing paternalism, pity and contempt toward Deaf people. (Sometimes, if you use an interpreter who is lousy and makes you sound like a petulant five-year-old... well, it's tough.)
  8. Excluding of the Deaf community from decision making on key matters, such as educational policies and medical procedures that pertain to Deaf people.
  9. Disempowering them around communication, resulting in communication isolation. (Happens all the time, especially in hospitals.)

Pick a number. Do you experience audism, based on these categories? How do you work against these ideas?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

349: Deaf Awareness Week roundup

What are you doing for Deaf Awareness Week? Are you holding an Audism Monologues? Are you doing a signed poetry reading? Some things I've found online:
We already had DAW in NYC; I didn't go, because I had a sister's baby shower to attend (and god, is she huge!) but I'm always personally a little weirded out by Deaf Awareness Week, since it's basically lots of people making their annual I Really Want To Learn ASL One Day (TM) Pledge, a bunch of Deaf people get together at a festival and exchange money and/or watch a fight, and then people go home.

Instead I'd like to see events where people walk around passing out earplugs with "See How Much Better It Is Without The Noise" printed on them. Or maybe some Deaf film festivals.

Anyway - what are you up to? Oh, in some other news, Deaf actor Darren Fudenske is in the news again.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

348: The Heart of Audism

The worst kind of audism, to me, is when you explain to the other person your communication boundaries and they persistently ignore them. Perfect example? Ridor's story about his father:
The nurse saw me there and she asked me if I could interpret. I said “No! You can’t do that!” She asked me if I have a hearing sibling who can do that. I said, “Totally unethical. Get an interpreter!”

She went back to the desk and brought the Video Relay Interpreter (VRI). Mom and Dad was receptive to that but I was not satisfied. I explained to the nurse what if Dad needs to roll over and all that, the VRI is meaningless to use with!! Plus, the quality of speed on the VRI was eyesore.

Here, you can see Ridor and his family asserting they are Deaf and need an interpreter again and again. What is actually done? Instead of accepting people's statements and doing something about it, they continually try to provide cheap (for them) easy (for them) solutions. I like to use feminism as an example: women, for many years, verbally told men they didn't like being harrassed or molested. Like women, Deaf people consider inappropriate types of communication, harrassment. Like women, we are often disregarded - my mother, for example, knew I was Deaf at a young age, but doctors said she was just being a crazy mother. Listen to this account by a woman who'd just recently become Deaf, chronicled in Glickman and Gulati's "Mental Health Care of Deaf People:"
At 5 a.m., a young woman appeared, a Filipino psychiatry resident with a strong accent. Between my deafness, my mental state, and her accent, I couldn't understand her at all. I sobbed... When I said I could not understand her, she moved closer, until she was literally 'in my face.' I did not feel understood or cared for by her. Unbelievably, she said something about the possibility of 'fixing' my deafness with a cochlear implant, as if she were prepared to perform the surgery then and there. "Someone please help me," I thought. "I can't hear and I'm losing my mind!"

If Deafhood is a process, like any process, it must have steps. What are these steps? One step is learning to be comfortable with your communication boundaries. Many people who were categorized hard of hearing are trained to try to lipread and listen and figure out what the other person is saying. Nobody helps us figure out exactly what our needs are and how to articulate them without being embarrassed. We're taught to try to overcome these needs, just like many women are encouraged to get over it, swallow their pride, stay in our place. Not that teaching speech is necessarily bad: it's just rarely done in an empowering way.

Knowing your rights is an important part of knowing your communication boundaries, but you must know more than your rights, because sometimes the system won't be there to help you. You must know what you can do to protect yourself as a person and ensure your awareness no matter what. (It's true Deaf people are a little more paranoid than others. I remember reading the book War Boy, and hitting a scene where a friend of the main character comes into his home when the main character is in the shower. The MC of course is surprised and thinks: This is why I can never trust them.... or something to that effect.

Because it is communication at stake, and not sexuality or private places or skin color, this kind of oppression is difficult to understand for people not familiar with deaf peoples experiences. But suppose it had been a big burly man instead of the Filipino lady? Suppose a big man had approached a hearing woman and gotten into her face like that quote showed? There'd be a fight, no doubt about it. Yet the key element-behavior change based on difference, shown in the violation of personal space-is the same. Worse is when we, in that moment, try to explain what our boundaries really are-sometimes desperately so!-and They are so intent on finishing their job-or so convinced we Deaf idiots wouldn't understand anyway-and they steamroll on, bull in a china shop, breaking down our personal limits untill we frustratedly acquiesce to their direction. This is why so many Deaf people need to ensure there is clarity of communication in their relationships (and again why important to analyze yourself and find those boundaries so you can establish them!) Thus does Deafhood help prevent audism.

Looking at women's studies and disciplines from other cultural groups helps us understand how the dynamics of power play out; this is why I minored in Women's Studies all those years ago. Deafhood occupies the same place, in my head, as womanhood, and the process of growing into adulthood. (Like adulthood, there is no specific place to head - you don't become an adult and stop growing older! It's still a process of learning.)

My friend and roommate the Sparkly Spanker tells me about her friend, a Deaf woman who started off her relationship with her Hearing boyfriend by quickly setting up clear rules. He must learn ASL, must not do this and that, and also what is okay to do. As a result they've got a successful relationship. She knew her boundaries and needs, articulated them clearly to someone with no experience. He accepted her explanation of herself and did not try to impose his assumptions and expectations on her. I suspect at some point he may have done the same for her, to explain his own feelings.

Learning to assert your needs and, if applicable, your rights is another step. Some people are shy. Others don't wish to make a fuss. Still others have family they don't like to embarrass. We all throat-grip-swallow one way or another. Asserting needs in a positive way is really important, however. Deciding how you do that is up to you. Some people refuse to have meetings without an interpreter. Others explain their needs in a simple way the first time, but agree to go ahead and work. Some confront the other person every moment, engaging the other person totally until the light dawns-If you don't know your comfort levels you run the risk of being put, by ignorance or audism, into a difficult situation.

Interpreters ask when they begin jobs how you prefer your class, meeting, whatever, signed: ASL? PSE? SEE? We watch each other when we meet each other-consciously or not-and try to switch gears to meet the other person's Sign Language skills. What we often don't realize as Deaf people is that hearing people don't have the same habits as we do. Hearing people look for audio and bodylingual cues - how the head is tilted, etc. etc. When I went to England and I saw how British Deaf had different expressions for, for example, the sign for "surprise" it helped me realize that each cultural group has approved physical behaviors to communicate "yes I understand" and other such emotions. Hearing people have their own behaviors, also. When we look at someone's lips, we are trying to get information, to communicate - to a hearing person, this might look like a challenge or interruption. Being aware of these differences allows us to control them, to maintain our balance.

This is why this is the worst kind of "audism" (whether the term is liked or not, it's here; people have issues with the terms "feminism" and "racism" too.) Because it's part of the process of establishing your identity and place in the world, and when they ignore it, they ignore you. Hearing children are given every opportunity for self-expression; Deaf children, often, especially those born to hearing parents, are not. (More likely we are engaged in speaking drills.)

Teaching people about Deafhood as well as Deaf culture and Signed languages is another way to combat the effects of Audism. But this is the end of a long process, a process filled with steps, steps we often have to take together, as a community, before we realize how to go outside.

Friday, September 22, 2006

347: Gallaudet; The Healthy Deaf Person

It's funny. I mentioned many times during the Gallaudet protest last Spring that it was Jane Fernandes who began to put out the word that the protest was about her not being Deaf enough. Even her aides are spreading the word. y3 has noticed the same thing, and Ridor points out that now the Student congress has rejected Jane Fernandes, the administration is objecting based on the fact that the faculty and students thought the interpreter wasn't good enough; that they are claiming AGAIN that people are trying to divide the Deaf community. It sounds very much like Republicans saying if people want to be bipartisan, they have to vote Republican... These statements do nothing but inflame people's feelings. They do not repair the damage to our community. And to me, the fact that the administration is upset because people claimed the interpreter wasn't good enough? Did anyone ask if the terp was certified? And why a terp was needed at Gallaudet University at ALL? What is Jane Fernandes' strategy for improving diversity and acceptance of diversity at Gallaudet? They actually used the phrase "purebloods" and "mudbloods" in a letter for Goddess' sake! They are fighting against the concept of Deafhood because Deafhood would remove these divisions by encouraging people to RESPECT each other's paths in life and supporting each other in examining those lives. This would help eliminate division and create community - isn't that what they want?

I don't know what will happen with the Presidency but for the sake of the students I hope they get the courage to protest the oppression of their freedom of speech. The fact that the administration isn't more concerned about interpreter quality feels like it has some connection with that. They don't want a dialogue. They want to give the appearance of dialogue, and let the community fight amongst themselves. It also shows disrespect to the interpreting community, which is based at Gallaudet.

And now for today's entry...

What does it mean to be a healthy Deaf person in America today?

For starters, stress reduction. Being Deaf automatically means we have higher stress due to daily communication difficulties. It's very important to identify ways to reduce stress. Do you need time alone? Do you need to improve your safety? Travelling is always stressful; alerts for changes of gate (as this blog by Taylor Mayer demonstrates) are often difficult to naviate, although this news that you can soon download software to your mobile phone so people in the station will alert you of changes sounds great.

Another way to reduce stress is to anticipate problems. Dr. Ladd in his book "Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood" describes a situation where a Deaf man who grew up in an Oral environment was astonished at the fact that all the older Deaf people he met had pad and pen ready for communication. These days I use my Blackberry to order drinks.

We also have to deal with the health issues in the hospital or with the doctor. Sadly, many doctors opt out of providing interpreters because they claim it places an undue burden on their small practices. Hospitals have better luck, but as Mishka Zena reports they don't always like to accomodate you, and sometimes their accomodations aren't satisfactory. Ridor was able to advocate for his father - but what do you do if you're a sick person on medication and alone? It really is important to have a card or something with your ID in your purse or wallet identifying you as Deaf. That way you might be able to get a terp, whether qualified or no, and having some access to communication means you can begin fighting for yourself (as well as your health.)

We also have to take care of our eyes. Deaf people must listen actively. We must use our eyes all the time. Our eyes work with muscles. They get exhausted. Interpreters get breaks every twenty minutes, but we do not. So many of my friends have declining eyesight - we must take basic measures of health to maintain our valuable eyesight! Taking multivitamins, eating your carrots, resting your eyes in the darkness, all of these are good skills to maintain eyesight. There are some tips to take care of your vision (and here's another good link for parents to share with kids.)

Why is this so important to me? Well, how else will you read this blog? Have a good weekend, may do another vlog then.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

346: news and tea roundup, with extra rant

News: Today the biggest thing in news is the protest against the Washington Redskins for not including closed captioning (the Washington Post says "hearing-impaired" instead of "Deaf.") Ridor makes the point that hearing people have complained for access, too - well, of course. No hearing person would go to a movie totally signed without voiceover (or a play, for that matter) although they'd cheerfully tell Deaf people they should see "This movie even though it has no subtitles because it's TEH REALLY AWESOM!##@!O@" Such is life.

Canada is full of incident today as a Deaf man gets into a standoff with police and thieves steal $60,000 worth of equipment from the Ontario Camp of the Deaf.

rant: I have two things to rant on today. First off, I'd like people to shut the hell up about "cyberbullying." Basically they just want to get pity from others because they cannot defend their own arguments. I personally have received a ton of negative e-mails. You know what I do? I ignore them. If you're really being bullied, that's what you do. You ignore the bully. You don't go whining to everyone on teh internets! And you know what? IF THERE REALLY IS A BULLY, ALL YOU'RE DOING IS GIVING THEM THE ATTENTION WHICH PSYCHOLOGISTS TELL US THEY CRAVE. In other words: you're not helping. And if there really is a bully - and you haven't done something to start the situation - post the entire exchange, and let the pee-pul decide.

Secondly, I'm sick and tired of terps. Really. I'm tired of how much they cost. I'm tired of people not wanting to pay for them. I'm tired of fighting for terps for my clients. I'm tired of fighting for terps for myself. You know what, some days, I really don't think it's worth it. I am going to be paid less for the rest of my life for doing more. Some days I just want to turn it all off, go home, and collect fucking SSI. What the hell is the fucking point? They're bitching about paying people who earn more than me so I can learn the information I need to do my job. I'm sick and tired of whining about rights. "It's my right! It's my right!" It's THEIR right to fucking get an interpreter so they can cover themselves in MY gooey wonderfulness, motherfuckers. Nobody ever talks about getting an interpreter so THEY can talk to ME. They should be frikking GRATEFUL I have any frikking interest in their tired, mindless, self-obsessed hearing-people OPINIONS. And the terps are so fucking BLASE about it. Oh, I love working freelance. Oh, I love my job. Oh, I love helping Deaf people. Yeah, you're REALLY helping us by charging our bosses twice our hard-earned salaries so you can come in and interpret a fifteen minute meeting.

God. Sorry for exploding, but sometimes it seems like the whole SYSTEM is designed to teach Deaf people how worthless we are. And the thing is, I love terps, I really do. Some of my best friends etc. And as Ridor notes several of them are really hot and sexy (Hi Nicole!) Some of them even go to great lengths to think about what it means to be a terp in todays world and Deafhood. It just gets so exhausting sometimes. And people wonder why people want to stay at Gallaudet...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

344: breaking down audism 2

VLOG WORKSHOP... sort of.... experimenting here! I wanted to examine audism more deeply, and composed some questions to cause debate with you all and your friends! It's a good time, a recent protest at Gallaudet was about audism; the students at the University feel the college has been paying lip service to the ideal but taking no action. What action they want hasn't been specified, although from much of the reading I have a fairly good idea. However - there's a lot of grey areas in audism. So GET SOME COFFEE and start thinking! (P.S. I'm testing out vlog formats, so I vlogged my introduction and explanations... maybe more later as I work with this new tool...)

A professor at a hearing University is approached by a student concerned about a movie used in class which is not subtitled. The student cannot use an interpreter, since the theater will be dark and the class is in the hundreds - not easy to move. Eventually the professor provides a script. Is this audism? Are there any colleges in the United States whose primary language is other than English? Note: this problem was reworded after the initial post to make it more sensible.

Two students are walking to Ely and see a total of twelve members of faculty and staff speaking, not signing. Is this audism? What if those members of faculty and staff had been using a sign language these two students did not know? What is the difference between fully accessible and fully comprehensible?

That 2nd question leads to a big question: if we fight for recognition in terms of culture and language, do we still have the right to ask for access, which is based on the disability model? Not every hearing person speaks every language! And thanks to DE for this next question which came from his class discussion:
Two hearing parents go to a doctor and ask the doctor about non-surgical procedures to deal with their child's Deafness. The doc doesn't mention ASL but terrifies the parents into getting a CI for their child which comes with a contract stating the child will not learn ASL for a specified number of years. Is this audism? What if the doctor talks about "maximizing your child's opportunities in life?" How do you respond to that? Is this a nature vs. nurture argument?

Await people's thoughts...
UPDATE: I realize lots of people not happy with the word "audism," but it's out there.

UPDATE II: How ironic I wrote this post, then went and read Ridor's post about his experiences with his family. I hate VRI. I really do.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

343: what is deafhood? the original definition

Yesterday I sat behind my office on a metal stair with the Demon Queen and talked a little about Deafhood. I explained what's been going on in the Deaf blogosphere, with a ton of extremists taking over the discussion. "But," she exclaimed, "hasn't anyone read the book?"

No. Nor is anyone quoting. So, since I have the book, and I need something to take my mind off of things, here's Dr. Ladd's definition of Deafhood. I cite the complete paragraph:
...I found myself coining a new label of 'Deafhood.' Deafhood is not, however, a 'static' medical condition like 'deafness.' Instead, it represents a process - the struggle by each Deaf child, Deaf family and Deaf adult to explain to themselves and each other their own existence in the world. In sharing their lives with each other as a community, and enacting those explanations rather than writing books about them, Deaf people are engaged in a daily praxis, a continuing internal and external dialogue. (p.3, "Understanding Deaf Culture" by Ladd)

Go back and reread that. It's a pretty complicated statement! First, let's look at the first three sentences. Summarize: Deafhood is a new word. Deafhood doesn't describe a specific medical state. Deafhood describes a process. You can call yourself hard of hearing, be a CI user, be a hearing person who is involved with the Deaf community. Your Deafhood comes from analyzing your relationship to the world, from a proactive analysis instead of passive reception. When you start figuring things out for yourself, in short.

What about the second half of that statement? What about "the struggle to explain our own existence?" What does that mean? When I was a Master's student at Bristol University, Professor Jim Kyle asked our introduction to Deaf Studies class: "What is Deaf culture?" He proceeded to ask us for Deaf clothes, Deaf music. We had to find items to validate our culture. Was there a Deaf food? Deaf water? There's Deaf theater and some Deaf actors, but Deaf culture is not always what hearing people think of as culture. My response was, people continually create and re-create culture. (Most of the things Kyle asked about were cultural artifacts anyway; only a tiny percentage of people still walk around wearing klompen.) Also, there are other cultures which surprise expectations, and cross boundaries between the physical and cultural.

We should not be forced to struggle to explain and justify our existence all the time. But Deaf people know this struggle. Anyone who has been asked "What is it like to be a Deaf person," anyone who's had to explain about interpreters or work out ways to take control of a communication situation before it takes control of you, we all know this. We have all had to summon the courage to speak up, to stand up for ourselves and for others. A lot of this courage comes from each other. I was a lot more passive before I had the massive dose of MSSD exposure!

Now, some people might argue that the reason many people are concerned about CI is that, like the children of oralism or even mainstreaming, many people who are isolated from the community do not reach the point where they can constructively analyze their own deafhood because they are continually "trying to be" instead of "being" - and because, like Ladd states, it is important to have dialogue to achieve praxis (praxis is the academic word for understanding/enlightenment, without the frills.)

I would like to state that this is because of an old saw: "Others see us better than we see ourselves." We need to be able to exchange our ideas with people who have gone through the same experiences. Deafhood can be internal, but this is limited. We need to be able to speak to others and have them understand, and speak back. Don't always have to say the same things. Just have to have a much better awareness of the why and how of our reactions - it means a lot.

It may also be why a high percentage of Deaf people marry other Deaf people. (Something like 80%.)

This dialogue is the key to finding Deafhood. Not rigidity. Not being stuck in your own idea of what it means to be a Deaf person, because you can never be sure whether that idea is 100% of the truth. Artists know this: that's why they push boundaries. It's the reason I have this blog: almost every post here, in some way or another, concerns my quest to retain my Deafhood while living my life. And that's one reason I really like working with shows that involve both Deaf/hearing people. Check out my YouTube Archive for some recent projects. Off to get coffee... feel like colombian roast this morning.

Monday, September 11, 2006

342: go to BAWDVILLE!

I've been working with Honi Harlow and her crew in Manhattan on a bit of a documentary. Come to see Bawdville, a burlesque performance involving Deaf and hearing actors! Using a form of shadow interpreting, Deaf and Hearing actors move around on stage dancing and poking fun at the world and politics in both ASL and spoken English. Honi herself signs and performs. She works with both Deaf and hearing performers and creates amazing experiences. They have a show this Wednesday - if you're in town, give them some support! Commercial below, made by yours truly (and my first embedded YouTube video....)

Slipper Room 167Orchard St.
(corner of Orchard and Stanton)
every second Wednesday of the
month starting
September 13th
“The Artist formally known as…..
Sexy mother#@!*er”
Doors at 8pm show 9:15ish

341: remembering

is hard sometimes. I had a link to a list of names of Deaf people who died in the world trade center, just so someone would remember. Was going to post, but couldn't find it. Frustrating.

So I looked around on Google and I came up with link to this project by young Deaf students in the Clerc Center at Gallaudet. It's poignant that so many involve the attacks on the World Trade Center. Thanks to the magic of Google, I can also provide a link in HTML.

Still. Anyone have a list?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

340: sunday news & coffee, plus rant

Spending a Sunday afternoon editing video, this time footage of a friend's wedding. He had computer problems so logged off to deal; instead of going to work on the new script, I turn my attention to the news...

Fort Wayne, Indiana: Deaf Protest poor service:
The Fort Wayne Deaf Advocacy Coalition sent 20 of its members to local restaurants in July to place orders at drive-through lanes. Of those, 17 reported no signs telling deaf customers how to order, and three said they were treated poorly. One member drove away when an employee would not provide assistance.

"We have the same wants and needs and desires as a hearing person," said coalition board member Kim Drake. "Yet, we are often excluded from many things in life that the hearing world takes for granted."

The coalition said there are easy ways to improve service: training employees, posting signs, keeping pens and paper nearby or installing a buzzer system to let workers know when a deaf person is coming through the drive-through.

Louisville, Kentucky: Deaf Protest medical services: read down for the bit about D/HH services
Kentucky ranks No. 1 in the nation for people over 65 with mental disorders, said Mark Birdwhistell, secretary of the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Michelle Niehaus, coordinator of the deaf and hard of hearing services program at Seven Counties Services, said only three mental health therapists in Kentucky are trained in American Sign Language and deaf culture, which "puts people in really horrible situations" if they are deaf and mentally ill.

Sarah Acland, 66, of Louisville, has worked as a psychiatrist for more than three decades. "People tend to be scared of mental illness and that's not necessary," said Acland. "The mentally ill can be very lonely."

Article on Z-Net addresses Deaf people and disability: excerpted the part abt Deaf below
"The medical community has a pathologic view of deaf people," said a deaf woman who communicates using sign language. "They don't see us as a linguistic minority. I don't identify myself as disabled." When she visited the emergency room with an injured ankle, the physician's first question was about why she was deaf.

The ADA and other laws require clinicians to communicate effectively with patients, but physicians don't always do so. For instance, they often write notes to deaf patients, not recognizing that some sign-language users may have low proficiency in English. Hospital policies required a woman to relinquish her hearing aids before surgery. "Afterward, they told me, `You took a long time to come out of anesthesia. We kept talking to you.' But I couldn't hear them!"

which leads me to my...

Rant: Deaf people really have it BAD in the Medical system. I went to a conference last year which claimed something like 40% of mental health appointments in New York State go unfulfilled because of no ASL interpreters being available. From my experience, the actual number of Deaf people whose needs are underserved is MUCH bigger than that - because people are highly UNlikely to think of calling an ASL interpreter for a Deaf person. More likely they will try to find someone to take care of them, then just shunt them off. If the person is sick, cannot speak for themselves, they get screwed over. If what's happened to them is an accident or if they are a victim of an attack, it may never come to light without dedicated social workers.

Maybe never, unless the social worker is Deaf themselves - or uses a CDI to help. Why? Because a Deaf person is more likely to understand whether the communication is working-especially with those who have mental illness or just physical illness. An interpreter can only interpret what a doctor says. The deaf client may be saying yes to everything. They may or may not understand. A Deaf person - a CDI in many cases - can look at the client with Deaf eyes and often tell if the person understands or not. If not, we can rephrase until we see the look of understanding.

Who am I ranting against? Trained psychologists and therapists who understand people but, when confronted with Deaf-ness, forget all their people skills and depend totally on an interpreter or note-writing to convey their information as required (See, I did write them a note! I tried!) without using their hard-won skills to make sure knowledge is really shared. Oh, and doctors who just talk over their clients, who wind up huddling, defeated, on the chair, sort of swaying to the rhythm of the mouth.

Friday, September 08, 2006

339: FSSA/Oppression? Gallaudet holds... conference

What do people think about this letter, posted today on MishkaZena's blog?

I was impressed by it. I was impressed by the complexity and depth of the author's statement of oppression. There are obviously problems at many levels - gender, racial, class - you name it. Two paragraphs which struck me I quote here: joining FSSA, in standing behind the recent press release, I am apparently taking part in an "insubornation of the administration." I don’t comprehend this. In asking for freedom we are simply asking that people stop oppressing us. If this is insubornation, so be it. I refuse to subordinate to the oppressive majority and in doing so I am letting you know I am not willing to be a victim- nor am I willing to contribute to the problem.

I am tired of walking through halls of the signing community to find that people are not signing. I am tired of being second guessed because I am a woman. I am tired of wondering whether I got a job because I am qualified or because I am deaf. I am tired of patronizing looks and expectation that I'm not good enough because I choose not to use my voice. I am tired of seeing certain people move up in spite of their abuse of power. I am tired of unequal allocation of office space. I am tired of students of color coming to me and clearly not feeling completely understood but having no choice because there are no other staff of color they can go to. I am tired of the subtle insults about gay and lesbian people, the lack of sensitivity towards gender identity. I am tired of not being able to say with complete honesty that I feel cochlear implants send a subtle message that deafness is a disease when others are given free rein to promote such technology.

It also made me realize, a lot of these problems at Gallaudet have been festering for a long time. Well, I know there was a Principal kicked out of MSSD for his sexuality, but while I was there, it did seem like a very progressive school, with a lot of support. Black and white and asian - everyone was really mixed up. Towards my senior year, I remember seeing a little more divisiveness, but... I'm glad she got a chance to speak. This seems a lot like what happens when employees form unions to stand up to the oppression of an uncaring administration. Do Gallaudet employees have any union standing?

And I'm not sure how to deal with the author's view that CI send a message that there is dis-ease about deafness. Although I'm willing to accept it, for now, and think about how that can change.

I decided to go check out the news section at Gallaudet's website. It's about as complete as a channel without a television. Seems completely empty. What do Gallaudet people do for news these days?

Oh, right. They check blogs. There's no statements from the President about this protest. Instead there is a note about this conference:

Gallaudet hosts conference

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Hearing Enhancement (RERC-HE), in conjunction with Gallaudet University and New York University - School of Medicine, will hold the State of Science Conference on Hearing Enhancement on Sept. 18-20 at the Kellogg Conference Hotel.


Researchers, clinicians, industry representatives and consumers from the fields of hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive technologies, dual sensory loss (hearing-vision) and rehabilitation therapies will join together to assess the state of the science in adult aural rehabilitation and identify future research needs.

Posted: 8 Sep 2006

I guess Black Widow will continue to feel dis-ease. I wonder if any Deaf Studies specialists will be there. I think the key to the future is not refusing technology, but infusing ourselves in it. Let's take over tech and make it develop our way!

Thought experiment: if you could develop a device to help you perceive sound, but not necessarily HEAR it, what would you create? A watch that changed colors, like an iTunes visualiser?

I got my Deafhood book back today from the Demon Queen, THANK YOU! So more on Deafhood soon, probably.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

338: breaking down audism

UPDATE: Some links to articles about Gallaudet protests here and here. In the process of looking for this I happened to find this about Gallaudet's volleyball team.

And now back to breaking down audism:

I occasionally have to educate doctors - and clients - about things Deaf people use. Not everyone realizes hearing aids run on batteries, for example; that they need to be cleaned; that walking up to a nervous person and shouting in their face may make the hearing person feel good, but often makes a nervous Deaf patient freak out (or think the hearing person is freaking out.)

But is this Audism? Is ignorance the same as prejudice? I would argue no - and I would argue we need to be very careful about such terms as Audism and "cyber bullying" if we want these terms to have any power.

So what is Audism? A term coined originally by Tom Humphries and later popularized by Harlan Lane. Jamie Berke has a good guide on some of the history and associations of Audism, including a mention of Lightkitchen, a group I'd like to work with one day.
A simple definition would be that it is a negative or oppressive attitude towards deaf people by either deaf or hearing people and organizations, and a failure to accomodate them. People who have audist attutides are considered to be audists. Under this definition, deaf people who will not use sign language and who will not identify with the deaf community and consider themselves to be "better" than others who use sign language and are part of deaf culture, meet the definition of audism.

Berke's definition is a great start, but a little circular. I would clarify. Why? Because when you are a minority living within the majority culture, pretty much everything is negative or oppressive for you as a distinct group. This is not intentional, but this is what laws like the ADA are for. They confront unintentional ignorance and discrimination.

Ignorance is very different from Audism. Ignorance can be excused and taught. Audism, and audist acts, show evidence of chosen and entrenched behaviors. What's a good example?

Ignorance Not putting captions on the TV
Audism Refusing to put captions on the TV
Ignorance Confusion at how to communicate with a Deaf child
Audism Refusal to have a Deaf child in one's classroom

Audism, in other words, is a choice, not simply a reactive or ignorant position but one chosen and maintained by an individual which guides them to active negative attitudes or oppression towards deaf people.

Notice I kept the D small. d. Why? Because, at this point, we're not talking about internal Audism - yet. Internal audism has a very different structure. I have received e-mails saying we should say FUCK YOU to everyone who is not a signing, proud DEAF person. Well, I disagree, based on my own experience.

Suppose you met a Deaf man who did not know ASL? Would you instantly call him an Audist? Suppose this man was raised orally by ignorant parents, which happens like 99 per cent of the time in America. He never met another Deaf person, nor did he have any prejudice about Deaf people. He tries in a friendly way to communicate with other Deaf. Some people today are with a very easy hand throwing people like this into the Audist pot. Same thing with people who use cochlear implants. Their personal choices are perceived to be oppression of the larger community.

Do I think this is so? No. I support the concept of Deafhood which includes the experiences of all Deaf people. Not every Deaf person comes from a position of knowledge instead of ignorance. Also, the experience of every Deaf person is important if we are to really understand American Deafhood. Would the Jews have kicked out Jews who had been through the holocaust? Yet we call cochlear implants our own holocaust, and kick out those who suffer through it, making their situation worse, no matter their own personal choices in the situation. I have friends who were forced to get implants, who chose to get implants... they are all still signing and they certainly don't preach Audist attitudes. But it seems, from what I read around Gallaudet news and other sorts of discussion board, that many people feel that CI users feel superior to them.

When I first went to MSSD, I was not an Audist - I was ignorant. I was raised by a family who was told ASL would poison my mind. They made a big deal out of it, and as a result I did not meet a Deaf adult really for 13 long years. Every once in a while I would be in school with a group of other Deaf people. But most of my childhood was spent alone.

I arrived at MSSD convinced, based on this, that my oral youth somehow made me better. It is true that it gave me wider access to the mainstream hearing cultures. It had left me with a lot of gaps in my knowledge, however, and I did not understand Deaf culture at all. Thanks to the support and education of several teachers who did not reject me despite my ignorance, I now proudly call myself a Deaf person. Why? I think it's better for us all to accept we can be diverse under one banner, instead of to split ourselves apart. Everyone has some Deafhood in their pants.

My conclusion? We must fight Audism and Audist behaviors - while recognizing that some of what feels "bad" to us as Deaf people is also ignorance. We have to work and teach those who don't know. Oh yeah, and some people are just mean little wankers.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

337: games deaf people play

Thought Experiment: What is the most maddening thing about dating Deaf/dating Hearing? Some friends' experiences prompted this post.

Is it when you're out with your hearing family and your boyfriend complains about leaving a tip?

Is it when he spends the entire night reading ridorlive on his blackberry 8700g?

Or does it have to do with his social past?

We all know the Deaf community is small. We all commit indiscretions now and then. A young lad feels his oats. A young lady thinks, I know a guy who has bigger oats, but at least this one doesn't smell funny. But hold it, young lady.

Do you know this gentleman? If you ask his deafschool classmates, will they tell you half the illegitimate children at Someplace School for the Deaf have his nose?

For a young Deaf professional woman such questions can be more than just girl gossip. Young Deaf professional males have more ways to spin it. ("I tamed the smoky beast," grinned Flint Lockheart, as he gazed down at admiring Chelinda, who worshipped his manhood. His wife Marin offered them more coffee.) How many times have you hesitated hanging out with a guy because of his past? Sometimes it seems an easier option is the hearing guy who smiles at you when you stop for a latte.

Deaf/Hearing relationships are pretty common, but their complications are vastly different. Instead of the community being too small, it's suddenly too wide. Conversations run the risk of faltering on shallow shores. And the avenues for available misinterpretation are way too many. I wrote one post on how the exact same comment meant two entirely different things to myself and a partner, and how neither of us had any idea how either would think about the issue - we were operating on totally different dimensions. Deaf people and hearing people - and deaf people and Hearing people - do think differently. Deaf are from Jupiter, hearing are from Saturn. As a person in a Deaf/Hearing relationship myself, this made me wonder.

Can we look at other mixed couples to give us pointers on how to ensure smooth sailing? Or are we doomed to a trip to the briny deep?

Well, a google search proved interesting. I looked for issues that come up between black/white as a starting point. I figured there were different categories to help us focus on Deaf/Hearing issues. I tried breaking them down a bit. I found articles which seemed to focus on:

  • Family Resistance. How does the Partner A's family affect Partner B? Are they resistant because they've heard stereotypes about what Partner B's race/religion/culture entails?
  • Reasons they're getting into a relationship. Is partner B afraid of being alone? Does Partner B have an obsession with Partner A's culture - or vice versa? Some Hearing people are obsessed with Deaf people and read websites about sex with Deaf people, touching hearing aids and other items in... new... ways.
  • What if the relationship ends? How will Partner A and B be affected by each other? When the relationship ends - and invariably a number of relationships will end - will they take with them anything they cannot recover from?

Feel free to join in with thoughts and musings. Wednesday evening madness!

Gallaudet Protest? It seems the issues raised at Gallaudet this previous spring are still up in the air. MishkaZena reports, also Ridor. You can find the official statement of Gallaudet's FSSA here. I tried to look for an official comment or response from Gallaudet but I see nothing so far, although there are reports of students being harrassed. Nothing on the news yet? Except for a brief article about cued speech in the Baltimore Sun which I found interesting for some reason.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

336: when it dies

How many of you, dear readers, have a hearing aid?

How many of you hate when it conks out? Battery dies? Annoying tube snaps? Annoying little screw-tube bulb thingy on the end breaks off? Little useless door which is supposed to protect inner workings of hearing aid falls off?

We could really use a Deaf Consumer Reports. Alas, such is a pipe dream.

Why do I think about this? Because I was in Peaks Island, Maine for the past six days or so enjoying the sunny beauty of New England. One night, fuelled by alcohol, my partner and I decided to joy-ride bicycles with our friends Bodie and Ruth around the island to the landing where they would be picked up by the local ferry and shipped off to Portland. The next morning my aid was a rusty damaged mess. I managed to clean it out so it was working again and in the process snapped off the bulb thingy on the end. While trying to force the two broken bits of hearing aid back together, the little plastic tube thingy snapped.

My hearing aid battery is probably dead too. I can't check until I get it working.

The sad thing is for millions of hard-working Americans, the only option when their hearing aid breaks is to raise the money to pay for a new one. Health insurance rarely if ever covers hearing aids - unless you're on Medicaid, which will replace your aid once every three years, regardless of whether, for example, it had been stolen. (I believe you can appeal or something. Not helpful to this working Deaf man.) Right now most insurance DOES cover cochlear implantation and subsequent therapy - making choice moot for plenty of parents and Deaf people.

Mind you, I don't break the hearing aid often. In fact on my last visit to the hearing aid specialist I asked them to check out the serial of my hearing aid. Turns out it's 9 years old - easily one of the oldest the audiologist, Terrence, had seen. He looked at it as if it were some sort of antique and recommended getting one of the newer analogue ones. Terrence is unusually honest: most audiologists I've been to push the implant, or a new digital hearing aid. Terrence reports that in my case, the digital hearing aids wouldn't be useful, and a cochlear implant could theoretically remove all of my remaining hearing. So. The old-fashioned hearing aid is my best bet, updated with modern technology, for continuing to "hear."

Why do I wear the damn thing at all? It does increase the volume of what's around me, and permits me to enjoy music on a different level than when I'm without the hearing aid. Hearing-aid free, I sometimes think even my psychology is different. A big part of my time is spent deciphering sounds from my hearing aid - being able to turn it off, and turn my mind inwards, is very beneficial. Also, I live in a big city, where not many people are really aware of Deaf people. In a way, the hearing aid is a tool of defense for me, letting me know, if not what people are saying, that someone's saying something to me. Which, if you're running around the city, is sometimes a comfort.

But for two days I've been hearing-aid free, and I have to say, it's nice. There is something to be said for experiencing your body as it is and experiencing your senses as they are. Almost freeing.

On the other hand, I also have to WORK with hearing people, and my vacation is almost over: on Thursday I get back to the office. I work advocating for Deaf people around the city, and I don't have the luxury of an interpreter with me all the time (neither do most of my clients. The sad fact is in New York State a high percentage of interpreter requests go unfulfilled, either because of unavailability or because of fear on the part of the interpreter for certain situations.)

Ah well. I'll deal. And will take Chipper in tomorrow for repair. If he's dead, I'll scan his body and maybe write a bad poem in tribute.

More tomorrow, and later this week: I'll be trying to blog more regularly, and maybe, MAYBE a vlog soon. (I'm still self-conscious about signing on video. I sucked on stage, too.)