Saturday, April 28, 2007

411: Firm of Scratcher & Low Leaving RNID; DeafRead Too American?

I kept trying to find time to write about this, but life once again overwhelms me! But this is very important news and recent developments make me think it's important to provide some context. The RNID is the largest charity organization for Deaf people in the UK, claiming to represent 9 million Deaf and hard of hearing people - think the largest GOVERNMENT nonprofit. They provide tons of services for Deaf people in the UK. Scratcher, also known as James Strachan, was a source of a lot of controversy - and a much clearer-cut case of audism than our own Gallaudet protest. You can read Doug Alker's book about his own experiences, Really Not Interested In the Deaf? (also with video in BSL.) You can also catch up on the news at GrumpyOldDeafies where alison did an AWESOME job on the news roundup.

Doug Alker after his experiences working at RNID became Chair of the British Deaf Association. He was the chief executive of the RNID until he was replaced by Strachan. From The UK Guardian:
So fraught has been debate on this question that on the appointment of Strachan - who lip-reads and speaks, rather than uses sign language - the RNID was plunged into a bitter internal feud. Supporters of the displaced chief executive, Doug Alker, a signer, accused the organisation of pandering to the "oralist" school that encourages deaf people to lip-read and develop speech. Three years previously, after the departure of Stuart Etherington, deaf people had staged demonstrations to persuade the charity to appoint a deaf chief executive such as Alker, reflecting the growing sentiment among "users" that nothing should be done about them, without them.
Basically Strachan seems to have oppressed signing Deaf people in favor of oralism, technology, and has connections to corporations. He did not support the BSL recognition movement. He didn't like having to allow a diversity of opinion and didn't respect signing Deaf people. He doesn't sign himself. While I was in the UK, there was also a lot of controversy over the appointment of Dr. John Low, a man with ties to cochlear implant corporations, as chief executive of RNID, and there were in fact protests on the street, and the Deaf Liberation Front met with Dr. Low and drew up a list of 5 demands. The cartoon below was published in Federation of Deaf People Magazine and shows public sentiment:

Imagine Jane Fernandes had been appointed President of Gallaudet University and imagine after five years she left with Paul Kelly. Imagine the kind of atmosphere and potential for positive change. This is what the Brits are experiencing now.
The reason I finally forced myself to sit down and write about this is because of the concerns raised by Alison about how DeafRead's methods of filtering affect its audience. This is a HUGELY important post which everyone should read. People need to remember that there are people at DeafRead making choices of how to categorize the news. Their definitions don't necessarily have to be the same as yours. In this case DeafRead have apologized and promised to learn and improve, and you can see the up-front responses from DeafRead staff in the comments of Alison's blog. (It's cool seeing people respond directly, isn't it?)

I have personally had some experiences where my blogs don't appear on DeafRead. This is mostly when they feel my blogs are advertisements - reviews of performances are often problems. I'm divided on this, since I'd like to expose people to criticism of and material about Deaf art. (And besides, I'm not always complimentary!)

I think sometimes we have to be content with the fact that there are going to be situations as the Deaf blogosphere develops in which there is no clear "right" or "wrong." But it would be nice if the Deaf community was global enough to recognize international news more readily. On the other hand, how long have we had the internet?

Maybe we need a global DeafBloggerCon with a panel to develop directives on how to shape internet to improve relations in the global Deaf community so we can develop a truly international response to ...

*sigh* I so wish I was going to Spain this summer.
Note: Thanks to Rob Wilks for some feedback on this post!


Anonymous said...

public enemy no. 1

Rob Wilks said...

Well said.

Just a few points I'd like to make:

1) Doug Alker is not and has not been President of the BDA, he was Chair until recently;

2) Alker is no longer Chair, having been replaced by Francis Murphy.

Apart from that - spot on! Will be adding your blog to my RSS feeds :-)


Joseph Rainmound said...

Thanks for the comments Rob - I have updated my website!

Erfs - smooch!

Tony Nicholas said...

I'm a Deaf Aussie, and I while I think DeafRead is good in many respects, namely the quality of the many of the blogs and vidblogs, I still think it's too US Centric, and I don't agree that every posy a blogger writes has to be about DEAF ISSUES....if we are Deaf, we will write about Deaf and from a Deaf perspective.

What's more every time I go to DeafRead, you guys look like you are having a dialogue amongst yourselves, without much reference to the rest of the world.

Joseph Rainmound said...

I don't work with so I can't comment for them!

I agree with you. Some of my blogs don't get posted to DeafRead because DeafRead don't see why they should be... it limits the Deaf community.

Smudge said...

I agree as well, posts don't appear, can't get them to accept my blog which is about life with a Hearing Dog - if that's not deaf-related, I don't know what is!

T.M. of T.D. said...

I agree, Tony Nicholas. It looks like blue 'n' red stripey puppets yapping off behind curtains with "DeafRead" logo on them.

Ever since Alison's blog that exposed DeafRead as U.S. centric, it immediately had a domino effect in my thinking. I'm beginning to see patterns of ineptitude from most of the DeafRead editors. DeafRead had to write a response, and then another lame-ass response to have Alison send her opinions to her! The audacity! They tried to reassure her and minimize their Achilles' heel or something. Only a few days right after that post by Alison, DeafRead announced a new feature, due to something like "We realize and feel it's time to throw in something extra for y'all".

I'm starting to look for blogsites OUTSIDE U.S. now; I'm damn sick of the puppet show.