Thursday, December 4, 2008

Advantages of Speaking: Not Audist?

Regarding the perhaps post. I want to thank everyone for their encouraging words and also to those who expressed their opinions. I'm not sure if you'll come back here to see what I have to say, since you're anonymous and may have just stopped by and been spooked away by my last post.

Let me speak to you all here: I don't try to promote one lifestyle over another. I have met so many different people who are happy the way they are, however different or similar their life is to mine.

I do acknowledge the glaringly obvious fact that some lifestyles are easier than others. If you can speak clearly, you are in the majority. But you are also in the privileged. You live easier as a result of that. And the comments I may have made about it being SO much better to be able to communicate with everyone around you- well. I don't feel it's audist. I feel it's common sense. Those people can learn both sign and English and whatever other language they want to.

I'm not saying Deaf can't learn other languages. I personally used to know Latin, Spanish, and French. But I don't speak it. I read and write those languages. What I am saying is it's easier if you can speak.

As I get older, I find it increasingly harder to find my way around in a world that is supposed to be so open to me and which I find increasingly shuts me out and not even on purpose.

I can't go to a drive-through without getting a glare because I've driven past the speaker box, and I get to the window and their faces melt into sympathy when they realize they've misjudged me.

I can't walk down a hill in the dark with a group of laughing friends and join in their conversation efficiently because lipreading is never 100% accurate or reachable.

Even if they were a group of deaf friends or friends who signed, it still does NOT CHANGE ANYTHING. It just changes who my friends are and how it may mean they're more considerate and/or patient or quicker learners of sign than most others are.

There are so many things I can't do, and I'm not content to just accept them for what they are. I'm not content to go to a culture that (while wonderful in its own ways) STILL doesn't solve my problems with 99.9% of the world. I know that if I'm not happy with something then I have to either a) accept it or b) try my hardest to change it in some way. I HAVE tried to accept it but the reality is that I can't imagine going on for 70 or more years disconnected, using paper and pen and an interpreter (not just in school) perpetually. I have to try and CHANGE my life however I can because here's a fact:

I can't change 99.9% of the world. But I can change how I respond to things. And I have. I've used my phone to talk to people more times than I can count and people are often impressed at how fast I type on the phone now. I use paper/pen. But this still doesn't integrate me into the conversations I so long to be involved in. Whipping out your phone to ask a simple, "How are you" to somebody in an elevator who will then look at you for a cue as on how to respond because of course, you aren't talking so they wonder "How do I talk to this person?", takes longer than the actual elevator ride and takes more guts to do than just verbally saying, "How are you?" with a friendly smile and having them say it back to you.

Even as a child I knew there was NO way I could fix my separateness from the world. At the young age of six, I felt the stinging damage. I believe I felt it younger. Not because I was raised in a hearing family. They signed and truly did their best to include me. Not because I was told I was "inferior." In fact, I went to a school where deaf culture was celebrated and seen to be unique. Nothing or nobody made me feel this way. It was just the sum of my experiences and continues to be. As Helen Keller, someone who overcame most amazing odds in a time that was more than willing to put away someone like her in an institute without ever educating her, said in a letter to someone,

"The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, if not more important, than those of blindness. Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus--the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir and keeps us in the intellectual company of man."

In other words: "Blindness separates you from things, deafness separates you from people."

I long to be INVOLVED. I long to not have to depend on my fluent 15 year old "hearing" sister to voice for me on holidays or with people who don't know sign.

I feel I may be able to learn to speak well enough someday that I may be able to go up to my favorite burger joint and say, "I want a deluxe, with fries" without any awkward hesitance on either my or the cashier's part. And that is when I will feel like I most fit in- when I can look at that person on the elevator and say "second floor, please" without awkwardly reaching across them or showing them two fingers.

And for that, I would give almost anything. I think anyone could relate to wanting to be involved with their own world and being frustrated when you're a 19 year old who has to have people voice for her constantly and they're constantly getting it wrong and making you sound like a different person than you are. Your world isn't deaf or hearing or confined to just your closest friends. It's EVERYONE you encounter everyday.


Dianrez said...

It might be that you are measuring your life and yourself against Hearing standards, and inwardly aspiring to that, even though you are consciously realistic about it?

Speaking for myself, if I were to think as you do, much of my life would have been lost on "what might have been" and "if only" pain. Actually, I've had those moments, especially when young and starting out in life. As life went on, I found my niche and it admittedly is in the Deaf community.

I have lived in different situations and part of my life have lived and worked totally in the Hearing community. But, secure as I was in the Deaf community, that was fine with me. My limitations did not define my happiness.

Your concept is clearly based on the medical model of hearing impairment; mine is on the social-cultural model where everybody else is Deaf, associated with Deaf in some way, or "outsiders" who would be friends if shown how.

I got past the point of trying to "fix" myself according to Hearing standards quite early; those were the days of oralism and hearing aids, not auditory-verbal therapy and cochlear implants, so the bar was much lower. Their limitations were realized many years before I left school and other attitudes and ways were developed by then.

Advice? Really, none. Everyone has to figure this out for themselves, but remember, where there is a majority, it is the duty of the majority to include the minority, not the other way around. Don't make it so hard on yourself.

Dave said...

I think you are a wonderful writer who has an amazing voice in all your posts.
Follow your heart in your CI quest.


Paotie. said...

Deaf residential schools = deficit thinking (medical model) because there is a requirement of thinking that deaf children CANNOT FUNCTION in public schools, which is somewhat affirmed by your premise regarding speech/speaking.

The important thing to remember is that the "social-cultural" model is a broken one - nobody knows who is or is not "Deaf". In fact, a common complaint with many research journals on "socio-cultural models of deaf culture" is the fact it is practically impossible to figure out who is or is not "culturally deaf."

Unless of course they went to a deaf residential school, which just shoves a massive hole in Dianrez's argument.



Dianrez said...

Paotie, Deaf Culture isn't an all or none thing. We all are somewhere on a continuum because of our great variety of experiences and orientations.

As we get older, we may move toward one or the other end (and back) as the demands of life take us.

As we become adjusted, we worry less about where we "fit in" in Deaf Culture (or other societies) and more about basic goals of life.

It is an advantage to be part of a society where one is comfortable, whatever that is. For some, it takes a little more time to find it, but having an open mind helps.

Erin said...

You don't know me. (I'm working on setting up my blog, I have a private one, but will be setting up one since I'm about to be activated in a week!) and I've gotten a lot of response from different people that want to hear about my experience as a person who's deaf, but an audiologist would say I'm hard of hearing.

In regards to your post, it really isn't audist. Though there will always be someone that will say that you are. They probably say that I'm audist too.

My parents had me take speech therapy from the ages of 2 years old until I was 12. So I had 10 years of speech therapy, and it PAID off so well! I pass for hearing 95% of the time. When I went to college, I met a lot of other people that could speak as well as me, and they were deaf or even hard of hearing. But most of us identified as deaf.

I have noticed that in a deaf environment. Someone might get pissed at what I'm about to say, but in a deaf community I feel as if the crab theory's at work there. Everyone pulls everyone down. After all, I went to a deaf school until 6th grade, then I opted to transfer to a public school. I think it helped me greatly, I was challenged a lot more.

Some people succeed a lot better in a deaf community, others succeed in a hearing community. I haven't quite found my niche, and I graduated college several years ago.

And it took me this long until I decided, well, maybe I ought to try the CI (I have Usher's--so it's also a necessity for me to have something other than losing 2 senses completely.) I'm curious to see how it'll improve my life.

Like Dianrez says, everyone has to find out their own way. this is very true.

HOpefully i'll be back soon with my own blog about my experience.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tasha,

I'm a student in Speech and Hearing Sciences and very interested in Cued Speech and learn more about your story. I couldn't find your email on your blog. How may I contact you? Thanks.


*Tasha* said...


I hope you see this-

You can reach me via!