Friday, July 09, 2004

Deaf vs. Blind, or, Why Does The Government Hate Deaf People?

I am learning a lot about "the deaf" as a group, and some of it is an unpleasant surprise. I am pleased to learn, for example, that when a blind person imports equipment relating to his blindness into Canada from another country, he or she is exempt from customs fees and duties on that item; and appalled to learn that if I order a TTY or a shaking smoke detector from another country, I am not. There appears to be absolutely no reason for this and the CAD is lobbying to change it, but it just seems so boneheaded on the face of it that I fail to see how the situation could have arisen in the first place.

I am very fortunate to have a colleague, "Ariel", whose partner is deaf and has been from birth. For me, having Ariel around has been the equivalent of waking up in a market place in central Africa and wandering around the streets until suddenly bumping into an old friend who has been living there for the past four years. She has been much more helpful than any of the professionals because she understands the reality of day to day living with deafness. She also has her own theories about why the deaf are a particularly poor lobby group (the case above being a good example) and don't get some of the breaks other disabled do.

Deaf people are highly independent. We're independently mobile and highly employable compared to many groups with disabilities. We can easily live alone, take care of ourselves and our children. This means we are, as a group, not a big expense or headache to the government. And the drains are the ones that get the attention.

That high degree of personal independence and mobility while coping in a world that can often seem unfair and uncaring can also make the deaf as a collective a sort of ostreperous bunch to deal with. They tend to be independent and stubborn as individuals (I am WILDLY generalizing here but with Ariel's concurrance) because of the nature of their lives, and stubborn and prickly as organizations. That doesn't win any warm & fuzzy points.

Finally, the deaf are big consumers. (Don't I know it - groan.) We need a lot of special gear to maintain our independence and our employment, which means we're a collective cash cow for equipment and tech manufacturers. Nobody is running out to set up free services and breaks for a lucrative if small market.

An example: a friend asked me in email why we were still using TTY when the obvious answer would be a computer software program that emulated a TTY. The reason? Almost all TTY conversation among deaf people is done through Baudot, which is incompatible with ASCII. Software will not give a computer Baudot compatibility. A Baudot/ASCII modem, or TTY modem, is necessary to do the conversion. They cost more than the TTY units, which at least have the benefit of being TTY-universal and I can a) contact most government offices and b) use a relay operator in emergencies or for urgent messages.

So, he replied, why hasn't some organization set up a server that is a central point where all ASCII could be converted to Baudot and vice versa as necessary to facilitate communication on both ends over the internet? Either for free or as a subscription service?

Well, damned good question. I may have to do it myself :)




Blogger Qasim Sahi said...

good job its nice

9:25 a.m.  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home