Friday, June 09, 2006

314: war boy

Would like to point out a serious issue which is probably going to face all of us at some point. The NAD is advocating for Federal employees, as per this article by Paul Singleton. It's a great read and an important issue. I'd like to open it up a little bit. What is the issue? Working, and getting ahead, as Deaf people and professionals, when we have to pay for interpreters.

It will at some point hit all of us. It's hitting me now, as I struggle to move ahead in work. It will hit all of us who have any motivation and any desire to get ahead. I think it often kills the motivations and desires of Deaf people knowing this wall is there. Why NOT stay home and take SSI when you know the "cone" of class for Deaf people is a lot more narrow than the one you get at Mary's Dairy? New wealth these days comes from corporate executive boards. Maybe you have the drive to be on one of these boards, participate at this level. Maybe you have the talent. How do you get there and convince the corporation you're worth it, as a Deaf person? Do you stay past the time when your interpreters leave? Do you bitch and whine about not having interpreters, thus giving people "a certain impression" of Deaf people? Is it about just accepting that life isn't always fair? Or maybe just being a little bull-headed? We have to face reality; the small businessman is really struggling these days.

Women used to have to be much better than men just to get jobs; these days there's still salary inequity. They created Universities and colleges where they wouldn't have to put up with the inequity during the process of learning (of course, we're supposed to enjoy learning while mainstreamed.) People complain about Deaf people being part of Deaf society and creating a "deaf world" - well, so what! At least there's a place Deaf people can be the best we are, without having to fight against the strength of having to be worth the cost of people's natural doubt and the accounting department's whining about having to pay for CERTIFIED interpreters and the continual little crunchy bits of Audism. And as you can read from Ridor's post today, even mainly Deaf organizations have problems within, with people abusing their power and connections, and these problems usually get amplified out of all proportion (because Deaf people never see that Hearing organizations have the same complainers, whiners, theives and scoundrels, I think. Plus we like gossip.) Working in the hearing world, we still have to be better than other employees just to stay on top. Faster, so we can keep up with what's going on when it's tough to lipread many people. We have to hedge our attendance to events so we don't have to request interpreters and make people complain about paying for them - we have to consider if we have the energy for that hassle. Consciously or unconsciously, we avoid situations where we'd have to work with others - in the corporate environment, team players are key, and that means communication, and that means... interpreters.

Mr. Singleton's article doesn't address any of this - he just wants to get interpreters so that Deaf Federal employees can get management training. But management is always in endless, endless meetings, which are endlessly expensive to interpret-it really does affect the bottom line. I have some ideas for using technology which I have to think about which might help provide a solution for some things, but interpreters will still probably be better than anything I can come up with for a long time. This isn't a glass ceiling; this is a brick wall - unless you somehow seduce the CFO, work extremely hard to be "worth" all this... ironically, once you get past a certain level, your salary could probably cover a full-time interpreter. (Which is one reason Deaf people are so concerned about the quality of education, standards, work, etc. at Gallaudet-it is a great tool for development for Deaf people, but we all see room for big improvement right now - and we all dream of a place we can work and develop without the constant struggle against people who don't care and don't understand and frankly, don't want or have the time to.)

Please understand - I'm a guy with a pretty good hearing aid which I keep in good condition, I can lipread, and I was DEAD and in migraine-headache-city after 20 minutes last night without an interpreter. The work I was doing is important work, and therefore worth it, but I just wanna make the point that growing up I was the Baby Jane of every audiologist I've ever met, people give me annoying compliments on "how good I speak" (which, to me when I'm depressed, just points out how good I DON'T speak), and this is still a big struggle. There have to be better solutions, but this is really what the field of Deaf studies is for - putting the issues of Deaf people in context, and starting discussions to find solutions to our changing position in the world. Print this out. Share it with people at work. Ask their opinions. Tell me what they think. I'm curious.

I think a big start is going to be finding ACTIVE ways to let go of our need of interpreters. It's still going to be a lot of work for us, yes, I know, it's not fair, they don't have to do it, welcome to the universe. I get really tired of seeing Deaf people refuse to do anything that doesn't have an interpreter, see a movie that isn't subtitled. NO TERP? ME WONT! Sometimes you do something because you have to do it, you know? But we have to find ways that let us a) KEEP OUR PRIDE AS DEAF PEOPLE b) GIVE US OUR DIGNITY and c) GIVE US OUR INDEPENDENCE. The ADA is meant to be a tool, not a crutch; a law, not a weapon; a reason, not an excuse. Be honest about your communication limitations, but be verbal about them. Don't expect other people to advocate for you. Be friendly; ask for written copies of everything that's said if necessary. But don't not be involved because there's no interpreter. I think that's a start... but it's not going to solve the corporate problem.

Sorry this is a long post. I love this issue. I wrote a dissertation beginning to analyze it.

Off to work and later tonight to meet my sister. Zlotte is ill. I'm in a hurry, but still writing like mad. Love to you all. For zlottian entertainment today, follow my trail on Wikipedia. (each of those words was a separate link to an article I read this morning. Ah, and I forgot these, about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Very interesting knowing the truth about him. I am not sure I think his life was worth the death of a child. Should have been another way.)

THIS was also definitely food for thought.

Does anyone know anything about this guy?

And this is kind of... scary. But a little present for Sparkly and Spunky.


Mr. Sandman said...

Amen! Fantastic post. But of course, I'm part of the choir. This should be required reading for all federal bureaucrats.

JRS said...

i think, any bureaucrats, but i want to see our community think outside the box too. you know how many gay men say only other gay men know how to make them feel good? same way, only deaf people will know how to make the technology that makes deaf people successful. everyone else will fail; they cannot know.

Mr. Sandman said...

How about bisexuals? Can they make a gay guy feel good? ;-)

Seriously, I agree that we deaf are the best arbiters for our needs. But I also agree there's definitely a need to think out of the box and craft ways to ensure things work out and accomodate everyone without compromising our needs and desires. It's the kind of conversation that I hope we can have now that people are seriously dissecting what it means to be deaf.

grantlairdjr said...

Gunderson mentioned few times at Mike McConnell Blog. They did interview - very interesting information.

He is ex-CSD employee who love racing cars and he's trying to win top 10 racers to be candidate on TV series in near future.

For more information, go to

Adam said...

ahh. ooo boy. good post. glass ceiling -> brick wall. fantastic line. give me some time to think about this...

Anonymous said...

my 2 cents' comment:
it seems to me that your "brick wall" is more like The Great Wall of China... As much as I understand the employers' point of view, I don't believe that it's always only a matter of bottom line (come on, more often than not companies can easily pay the salary of a few interpreters without going bankrupt). Don't you think the fact that many hearing people are very hesitant about interacting with a Deaf person (let alone hiring one!) also plays a big role?