Family Are Half The Problem? by Mervyn James

Recently in the USA, I read about a proposed bill to prevent family members being allowed to Interpret for deaf who may have been abused in police abuse/investigation cases. Frankly, I am surprised it is ever allowed to happen anyway. This issue is a particular ‘hobby horse’ of mine and having hearing family offer me their help, and seeing their surprise at my refusal, (And calling me ungrateful!), I see this very sensible bill suggestion as a vital part in making deaf aware of what they are actually doing to limit the support they need, and thus with this case I read, then allowing the abuser, to further abuse.

This Bill is LONG overdue, but why is there no such effective ruling in the United Kingdom? Or opposition to deaf groups that fiercely defend the right of family support, simply because they do not understand the issues involved? The deaf community has been very slow in taking up professional and unbiased support, and their reliance on family members can only mean they will suffer more abuses too, some by default, others by design. In Wales a deaf mother with 3 children STILL relied on her 77yr old mother to help her at the GP’s after she refused to use a terp supplied by the Dr claiming she had a right to use whoever she wanted, a right an BDA advisor defended (and no doubt her Dr approves of!). Or the 18yr youth in Blaina who had never attended the Doc with an interpreter in his life… or made any calls to them.

But the bill in the USA would only limit the ‘ban’ to suspected sexual abuse cases, when there should be a blanket ban on ALL family acting as bona-fide interpreters who are not even qualified, or even eligible by age. That ban should extend to health and every other area, and for deaf to be prevented from using family support even by choice, if it means that family member is acting as an interpreter without skills.

The confusion whereby deaf ardently campaign against untrained support, whilst STILL themselves  using that unqualified help  to cover 65% of all help THEY get, and thus killing own support demand,  is a glaring expose’ of how deaf are pretty much architects of their own access limitation. Is the reliance on family due to love? Or sheer laziness or inability to wean themselves away from that type of help?  We read of horrifying cases of 7yr olds acting as terps, going to Drs to discuss sex and other personal health issues with parents, children expected to tell terminally ill parents about their own forthcoming demise… and even Banks, to discuss personal accounts by what is obviously biased, untrained and definitely NOT neutral help. No chance of cutting brother Jim out of your will when he is translating for you! As suggested in the case of suspected abuses, it is totally out of line to allow a family member who may be the one abusing you, to translate on your behalf…

By all means take your family member with you if you are too nervous, by NO Means allow them to then translate or even make your decisions for you. Would other readers support the ‘NO FAMILY HELP PLEASE’ approach? Or do they still reserve the right to use who they want? Some deaf excuse it all by saying, ‘My support isn’t there, I really have no choice.’ Of course you DO, and the law exists to empower. Factually, the illogic of the statement has missed the point, you don’t ask, then, you won’t get either.

We battle daily systems trying to circumvent access by asking us to ‘Bring a family member with you.’, or ‘Give us your hearing family contacts then we won’t have to ‘bother’ you with details…’ If the deaf cannot see the total wrongness of all this, then why campaign for BSL or any other access at all, if basically they intend to use family anyway? I advised one hearing mother to refuse, and force her deaf child to ask for pro help, at least, make that call on their behalf to set them on the right path, she totally refused stating my advice was tantamount to asking her to neglect her own child.

So hearing family need to get wise too, do they even know if the terps they get are suitably qualified is particular fields of health etc….. Let’s face it, when you are no longer there, what legacy have you left that deaf family member who can no longer rely on you and is pretty incapable of asking for it elsewhere? Also what are you teaching that deaf family member? It’s certainly not self-reliance is it? Maybe Mum and dad prefer to have their children reliant on them, or are being over-protective. Start day one, get a terp in straight away and/or teach your child to do it themselves.

By Mervyn James who can also be found “At The Rim”.

Mr Mervyn James

Mr Mervyn James