‘Common Sense’ by Andrew Arthur

This blog entry, ‘Dear Deaf People With The Wrong Facts.’ is an interesting read, because it does give the other side of the picture. When I was at university they were big time on taking the “balanced view”. This often means looking at the other person’s point of view. In my opinion the Deaf part of our community are just not doing this. They are only interested in their point of view and nobody else’s.

This is particularly obvious in the replies at the bottom where we see people desperately trying to make the case for ASL and quoting what they see as facts in order to disprove the “Oral” argument. But you can see clearly that they are not presenting facts at all they are just coming up with anecdotal evidence, that is to say stories that “prove” the point. They tell us that as life long sign users they lead a full and productive life and are happy as they are. This is in fact the worst kind of evidence.

The reason for this is that quoting just one case or recounting a story of just one success does not prove that the whole argument is wrong. It’s very important to realise that. This is what we are taught to rely on at university and people who have not had that type of education, one might even say indoctrination tend to find it hard to accept reasoned discussion.

The *facts* are that overall Deaf people tend to have second class lives. They overall lack job security, career advancement, financial security. Yes, fine there are exceptions. I’m sure there are Deaf millionaires who have forged out a great career and all the trimmings. But far more common are people who live in low grade housing, rely on benefits, only circulate in the Deaf world and are generally deprived.

We know this because numerous surveys of the Deaf world over a period of years show that people experience all these things. That is why the *few* such as Nyle Di Marco are so celebrated. The underlying message is “You too can be like this” and actually the _evidence_ is “No you can’t”. So really these people who bang on about how great it is to be Deaf are only talking about their *own* situation. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we can all be like that.

But if you read those replies, a lot of them become personal. They are like “how dare you offend me with this heresy”. It’s almost like someone has insulted their religion and we all know where that leads. It just isn’t helpful.
But also as I have said before, America is not Britain. In the US there are a huge number of Deaf people and many are able to live in signing communities and work as Deaf people. In this country the opportunities to do that are limited.

So there is a danger in emulating the American experience too closely. In this country if you want to live a Deaf life you have to be prepared to travel long distances to organised events but in the US there are enough people in one area to make it possible to have local events.
Americans do travel much more than we do but the whole country is geared up to it. One of my friends travelled up to London yesterday to see her daughter’s new baby. A mere (by US standards) 250 mile trip. In the US they chuck a few necessities in the car and do the journey in an afternoon. However I had a text from my friend to say how exhausted she was from the journey, which she did by train!

Having said that, people here can and do live in deaf communities, I know for a fact that Bristol has a thriving community whereas Cornwall does not. In fact the deaf club in Bristol is negotiating to buy their own building. In Cornwall there is only one club, it is miles away from the rest of the county (Camborne) and I am told that actually the hearing helpers outnumber the deaf members!

So we’ve got to be sensible about this. There is this attitude of “Our gang, your gang” … ours is better than yours. But come on! We are talking about people’s lives, not rival football teams! I’d like to think that the Tree House can help people to look beyond the partisan attitudes just as the anonymous writer has done in that blog. I’d like us to be able to say “Of course it’s OK to be a signer. Of course it’s OK to be a lipreader, Of course it’s OK to use whatever hearing you have”.

To quote a certain Dodgy Dave… “We’re all in this together” …. but not quite in the way he meant, I think!


3 thoughts on “‘Common Sense’ by Andrew Arthur

  1. Totally agree, due to experience of the University of life! I grew up thinking “there must be another way”, cos what I was growing up with obviously wasn’t working. All children learn in different ways, some visual, others practical, some verbal, some need encouragement, some just need praise, etc etc. The more methods there are to communicate, the better, cos different situations require different strategies and different folk require different strategies too!! Simples!!

  2. Andy,
    I am in the midst if my PhD in Deaf Education and I do know university life. I’m afraid you’ve missed the mark a bit. Yes, there are Deaf who depend on government subsidies and have “second class lives” but it is not because of deafness. It is because of discrimination. This debate heated up again because Alexander Graham Bell Association printed information that was misleading and blatantly untrue. They are also unable to back it up with documentation now that the fervor has increased. The Deaf do not discount the successes of CI users, that argument has died down. What is supported be research and data is using ASL with speech provides greater success, something AGB and other oralists refuse to acknowledge. For Deaf in the US it is not an us vs. them. Of course there are radicals on both sides but at the crux of the debate, Deaf are being far more open minded than the oralists. It used to be if deaf had a CI they were shunned by the Deaf but that is far less prevalent because CIs have not had all the success they claim to have. In the meantime, as ASL is on the rise, we are seeing more and more successes with ASL. We have more Deaf lawyers, doctors, actors, teachers and other professionals. Yes, there are successful professionals who use CIs also but actions and misinformation like that of AGB and others who continue to oppress Deaf only cause hurt and fuel the controversy. Anonymous actually states she was correcting the facts that Deaf had wrong about CIs. Please read NAD’s response or RID’s response or the many Schools for the Deaf and state Deaf Associations response to this reheated debate. You’ll see who has their facts wrong.


  3. The “discrimination” these people experience is because of deafness. You’ve done the very thing I referred to above.

Comments are closed.