Deaf deaf HOH HI – deaf unity what’s that? by Natalya Dell

Deaf, deaf, Hard of Hearing, even the dreaded Hearing Impaired….. There’s a lot of divisions in ‘deaf communities’ and a fair bit of fighting. I don’t join ‘deaf’ spaces without expecting to need a fairly thick skin.

Yet every individual I speak to Deaf, deaf, HOH, deafened, deaf-blind says they don’t like the division and fighting either. In fact I’d go so far as to say people HATE it. I know I do.

Just hurling this blogpost out now in reply to a tweet really, cos 140chars isn’t enough. Someone suggested we had too much uncommon ground to do deaf unity…

That’s almost the opposite conclusion to what I was noodling with the other day.

The entire deaf world seems to be split into BSL signing culturally big D deaf and oral/aural non-signing small d deaf (hard of hearing, hearing impaired etc)…

You’re either or…. Apparently.

And even if you do accept a D/d deaf divide we seem not to be able to work together on anything and there’s epic amounts of grudge bringing up, “you were mean to me about X, so I’m not being nice to you about Y”…

And I can understand that. Cos what it says to me is we’re all hurting. Paddy Ladd on See Hear talking about CIs discussed bullying amongst “deaf” people of all deafnesses and talked about how it was caused by structural audism…

So assuming there’s 3 loose groups of deaf-signing, deaf-oral and then the inbetweeny group of deaf signing & oral cos an astonishing number of people seem to have some level of sign language skills…

I tried to work out some basic choices and which groups would choose what. And actually very few fell into either the deaf-signing or deaf-oral only camps. Most fell somewhere in between.

I also tried to add deaf-blind and deaf+other-impairment to that cos many of us do have sight impairments and I hear deaf-blind people talking about inclusion or exclusion within the deaf community. My own “additional impairments” affect how much I physically CAN sign…

So here’s my startng venn diagram:

Venn diagram

Venn diagram

What have I missed? I’m sure I have missed stuff, will modify this as needed.

But I think we can all agree that we support access to
* Healthcare via deaf awareness and communication support
* Education, cos right now for deaf children it’s not good
* Employment support in the workplace with deaf awareness, less structural prejudice,
* Access to Work support whether it be for BSL terps, lipspeakers or radio aids
* Entertainment with subtitles for cinema and DVDs and videos on websites etc
* Funding for access to support for every day life like Finland has for deaf people
* Some stuff under legal, social, moral, medical models of disability.
* Assistance animals like hearing dogs or guide dogs

The only thing I could find which I think some people want and others don’t is culturo-linguistic recognition of British Sign Language. Which arguably even those who don’t sign don’t lose out from, and could benefit from if we wanted to learn/improve our sign language and could apply to other things…

What are the other differences we have amongst ourselves?

By Natalya Dell

(Original source is here)


4 thoughts on “Deaf deaf HOH HI – deaf unity what’s that? by Natalya Dell

  1. A good effort! I did attempt similar mappings years ago but concluded that deaf people are adaptable and adjust to different situation easily without too much drama. Many are bilingual not recognized by mainstream majorities. Deaf people do have qualities which are not valued thus are labelled into clumsy categories for political purposes. Best to be seen as fluid and go with the flow in any situation. You haven’t missed anything we all shift around all times!

  2. I think dropping the D in ‘Deaf’ has to come first. Those who complain of division ignore the fact that division is legally recognized. No-one associates the HI with the D thing, it is an exclusive cultural deaf label. The problem seems to be the D label has sidelined HI need and support and they feel they have been marginalised by acceptances with charities etc. There is a strong case FOR division of support and awareness of ‘Deaf’ from ‘HI/deaf’. These divsisions need not be confrontational if they are entirely viewed as the two separate areas that they are. Co-existence is better than fighting each other for differing access need. BSL don’t fight the HI corner HI won’t fight the BSL one, each to his or her own. In an ideal world we would all work together in the real world it doesn’t happen. I think there is a case too for the removal of the terms ‘deaf and hearing-impaired’, even the term sensory impaired, as a qualification for funding, and as a credo for raising awareness. Currently there is no unity of any purpose or direction, so a parting of the ways can defuse a lot of aggravation, and, claims there is wholesale fraud going on regarding funding allocations, because deaf, became Deaf..

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