Views From The Velvet Prison by Mervyn James.

Mr Mervyn James.

Mr Mervyn James.

The culture gig is, basically, a response to isolation, and controlled environment approaches… not in-built genetic norms of any kind, since only point 2% of the entire deaf area with profound loss that relies on sign language, has a true genetic background. I do not think we do deaf children or deaf adults a service by pandering/recognising that Isolation as an acceptable norm ever.

It can be seductive to think we/they are ‘with own kind’, but the ongoing effect and lifestyle is isolation.  Many years when I started out and went profoundly deaf, I called this ‘The Velvet prison’… cool, cosy, and a defence and ultimately a refuge against a hostile hearing world, mainly because the belief is it is too tough out there… it certainly was for me at that time.

Now, I’d rather push access and education to break that up, so true equality and inclusion is seen in real time and not an occasional favour both mainstream and the deaf sign users go with occasionally, ‘look busy we are being watched..’ sort of thing. To use a rugby term, it was ‘going through the phases.’ but then failing to follow through to score a try at the end.  Playing the game not really expecting an end result.

There is no access, no equality, and no inclusion unless, we are all in it together, if that isn’t the case, then what we see is a ‘secular or segregated’ approach, whereby those who feel they are unable to avail themselves of the ‘bridges’ of communications, or utilise the laws that exist to enhance integrations between hearing and deaf, who are then doomed by default, never to take any active part in their own inclusion.

For many adults it is already too late, you can’t teach some of these old dogs new tricks, and they are perfectly content to stay as they are, ‘all deaf together’ or ‘all hearing Impaired’ together or even ‘all hearing together.. well, all of some or other together… but we do need to stop these views being portrayed as a virtue and part of being a deaf or person with other hearing loss. Isolation is not a cultural trait, it is a norm forced on people by a lack opportunity to break out, via discrimination, or oppression, or simply by personal choice.

That need not be the case for all but a very few. It has to be said, many with hearing and hearing loss, but not profoundly deaf, do seem to adopt the ‘let’s leave them to it..’ or ‘cest la vie..’ approaches, and they/we should not be doing that because it feeds the view isolation is inevitable, or even a lifestyle choice and right.

Occasionally it can look like ‘Not our business…’ and then divides become apparent, acceptable and very real.  In reality the ‘non-deaf’ with all their varieties and degrees of loss are at present not visible, unlike others who are HIGHLY visible through sign mediums, but the ‘non-deaf’ are the least empowered of all…. If you talk about ‘Invisible’ disabled then, that is us, it certainly is not someone deaf who signs who cannot HELP but be visible.

It may account for people who represent those areas latching on to aspects of sign so their issues can be seen too. It doesn’t work given the huge profile of signed language currently, and the awareness approaches that seem to be opposing each other by virtue of the fact they use different means to communicate, and/or a mixture of such approaches that the more ‘purist’ of deaf advocates don’t approve of. There is now a division of communication approach that polarises people. Deaf awareness never worked, never will.

Probably the biggest issue all with hearing loss now face, is how to pursue own access to the ultimate aim of acceptance and integration. Utopia will not happen. Even Martha’s Vineyard, which was held up as a yardstick to true deaf-hearing communal acceptance, disintegrated when that isolation was broken. In the Middle East, a whole tribe of nomads near Israel are near all deaf, and face the same outcome.

Perhaps herein lies the real reason for the pursuit of culture with some deaf, if that isolation, (which is the glue that holds the deaf ‘community’ together), is broken, then, so is their social base destroyed, certainly put under extreme pressure, who wants to be alone ? A powerful reason to pursue a cultural ideal.

~ Mervyn James.

Who can also be found at “At The Rim.