Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Deaf News

A roundup of some interesting deaf news that has crossed my desktop in recent days.
  • Deaf actress Marlee Matlin is going to be on Dancing with the Stars this season, which is sure to alter the American public's perceptions of deaf people and how we live. I hesitate to say, "...and what we can do" as that makes us sound like some kind of stealth superhero, the stereotypical disabled kid who doesn't say a word all through the movie and then pulls off a miracle move in the last quarter, leaving everyone stunned but feel-good (all except those who bullied and mocked him, of course, who are now suitably chagrined). No, instead I hope it just makes people stop assuming that they know what deaf people can or can't do. (You'd be surprised how many people think that deaf people aren't allowed to drive, for example.)

  • There is no victory so small that someone won't take the time to criticize it. In response to Pepsi's SuperBowl Pregame ad featuring ASL, the President of the Alexander Graham Bell Association sent a letter (pdf) to Pepsi complaining that the ad "perpetuates a common myth" that the deaf only communicate using ASL. (The Bell Association is an advocate for the "oral approach" to deafness - teaching children to speak and lipread, not sign. As you can imagine, this does not endear them to ASL-oriented Deaf culture.) The President of the National Association for the Deaf replied to that letter here.

    I've referred here often to the controversies and contentious issues that seem to infuse deaf culture, politics and policy. It is never enough to be deaf; you must be deaf the right way. I usually don't have much of a position on these controversies, coming late to the game as I do, but in this case, I'm solidly behind NAD, and not just on the tv ad issue, on the entire issue of ASL vs. the oral approach. But even if I wasn't, someone else's little parade is a poor time to pull out your rain-maker. It's just bad form.

  • Remember the Ukranian sign language interpreter who refused to sign offical government propaganda during Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" and instead told the entire deaf country that they were being lied to? The last thing I wrote about her was, "I wonder what's happened to her since". Well, now we know what happened to her, up until 2005, anyway, when she was honoured for that act.

  • Pitcher Ryan Ketchner, who is deaf, has been drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays and will be playing with their triple-A Syracuse farm team this season. Here's a fairly straight-ahead profile of Ketchner from the National Post, and here's a more "sportswriter-sentimental" take from the Toronto Sun. If called up, he won't be the first deaf player to play MLB; Monteal Expos outfielder Curtis Pride was one of Ketchner's childhood heroes, and Luther "Dummy" Taylor, as he was known, pitched for the New York Giants from 1900 to 1908. If Ketchner is called up to pitch for the Jays, he'll be the first deaf pitcher to play in the Majors in 100 years.


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Anonymous m.e. said...

well, i don't know much about anything deaf, but i do know this. about a month after they activated my CI, and i began to practice listening to CDs on my walkman (per yr advice, ronnie), and gaining all kinds of confidence and abiilty with my CI, my new boss announced at her first meeting with us, that all meetings henceforth would be conducted in ASL, VOICE OFF. i was so upset i left the meeting. it was like going deaf all over again. i still maintain that the ASL only approach is going to sink the good ship deafie. the point of the whole thing is COMMUNICATION, non? only about 3% of the deaf persons in the USA communicate with ASL. fine for them. what about the rest of us? ASL gets all the PR....people love it, find it fascinating, etc. the rest of us are the butts of stupid jokes ("windy, isn't it?" "no, it;s thursday!") ASL is so picturesque, blah blah. i need ASL myself when my CI batteries give out. but WTP??? communication has NOTHING TO DO WITH DEAFNESS or hearingness or CIs OR ASL. it's something else entirely. and THAT'S what we want and need. "and so the universal thump is passed around...and all hands much rub each other's shoulderblades and be content." BTW, it was about one year ago today that you and i became acquainted...feb 20, 2007...what a huge blessing that was for me. through your subtle hints and casual remarks, you introduced me to the whole "rehab" thing when i didn't even know that CI implantees GOT rehab. talk about a gift! i did so effing well, actually, that this past week, i ran into the woman whose rehab research i volunteered for. she said, "you MAXED everything...we'll have to make it really noisy so it's harder." and i thought...yeah, go ahead. i have PROGRAMS for that.

onward, kid. you saved my life...you just didn't know it.

9:34 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

M.E., that was about the most jaw-dropping comment I've ever received on this blog!

Not the stuff about ASL vs. oral and the never-ending arguments - I agree with you there 100% - communication is what is important, not communicating the "correct" way. Could your boss have been suffering some envy/resentment because you'd regained your hearing?

Anyway, the jaw-dropping bit was learning that I have been of some use with this rambling blog of mine. I consider our meeting a gift, too, and you've certainly enriched my life with your personality, stories, and shared and passed-along wisdom. You were an inspiration to me because of the number of years you'd been deaf when you took the leap and got the CI. I am not sure I would've been as brave if I'd already made my life in the Deaf world and could sign well.

Just goes to show, you'd better watch yourself, you never know when you're unwittingly influencing someone's life ;)


11:01 a.m.  
Blogger Brian Fies said...

I don't no nuthin' 'bout losin' no hearin', and I can't very well follow up M.E.'s beautiful post, but the Pepsi protest grates my grits.

It's got nothing to do with being deaf. It's the stupid idea that every mass media depiction of a person with some distinctive characteristic somehow represents all people with that characteristic. Drives me crazy. It's one guy in an 30-second commercial; that's the way he communicates. It doesn't mean that's the only way or right way, or that there aren't 5.9 billion other people doing it some other way.

Too many people stomping through life just daring something to offend them....

12:52 p.m.  
Anonymous m.e. said...

we never know where we're going to strike a spark. it just blows what's left of my mind that i got the most and best help in using this CI from a cute young cat lover in nova scotia (right? i'm not too good with the geography up there) (or anywhere) i mean, you're not a newfie, are you?? the boss, btw, is very decent (and hearing). i now have voice terps for meetings.

i still can't figure out who's cheesed at whom re the pepsi commercial. but there's LOTS more going on with that whole issue than just the 30 second spot. you are soooo right about the ability to take offense these days. it's gone hog wild. that said, i hafta say the AGB folks have a valid point. i just don't think the pepsi folks are the ones to deal with it. god love 'em. maybe now the famous university for the deaf, which shall be nameless here, will sign their annual soda contract with pepsi and not the bottlers of THAT OTHER STUFF, even if it makes things go better....

3:02 p.m.  
Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

Just goes to show, you'd better watch yourself, you never know when you're unwittingly influencing someone's life ;)

I have nothing to add to that; I just wanted to hold it up like an icon in the sunlight. I don't know why that thought isn't as ingrained in our culture as the Golden Rule, but it should be.

And, as for the rest of this discussion, I have nothing to contribute of substance, but I want to thank you guys for having it.

Please continue.

12:00 a.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

cute young cat lover in nova scotia (right? i'm not too good with the geography up there)

Right neighbourhood - wrong street. I'm in New Brunswick, which shares a border with Nova Scotia. Both are maritime provinces and if you're not from here, easily mixed up.

The cute part you got right. ;)

(or anywhere) i mean, you're not a newfie, are you??

As a matter of fact, I am (I prefer the term 'newf' but my sister prefers 'newfie' so the jury's out on that) - I've been living in NB for sixteen years now, but grew up in a town of 700 on The Rock. Once a newf, however, always a newf - that is beyond true.


7:37 p.m.  
Anonymous Hearing Loss Treatment said...

The sense of hearing is an important part of life. If nothing else, it serves as a safety valve against danger. If you hear car tires screeching, your hearing will tell you from what direction it is coming from. You suddenly look in the direction of the sound and see the car careening towards you, enabling you to get out of the way quickly. If you suffer a hearing loss, you may not hear the tires at all, causing you to be injured or worse.

4:10 a.m.  

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