Gift of Language
The other day TODAY ran a short segment about “Gift of Hearing”, which shows a family with two deaf boys who have received cochlear implants and are going through speech therapy. The clip can be viewed here – it’s not captioned, but you can get the gist of what it is all about.
I don’t have any qualms about parents choosing to give their deaf child cochlear implants and speech therapy. I understand that parents mean well and want the best for their deaf child.
I want to touch on the issue of media glorifying cochlear implants and speech therapy, be it for both adults and children. We’re all aware there are videos going viral about people hearing for the first time and their emotional reactions after getting a cochlear implant.
I am saddened by the fact that people, especially the media, have forgotten about the gift of language. It’s saddening that sign language doesn’t get much exposure in the media. It breaks my heart.
I touched on the importance of language late last year however I want to focus on the exposure of sign language in media and in the public.
Since earlier this year, Auslan has seen a lot of exposure in the media and public. It’s supposed to be the Year of Auslan. Or has that quickly faded out…? Keep in mind that a lot more people are now aware of Auslan compared to 10 years ago, so that’s a progress nonetheless.
Lilit Marcus, a CODA (Child/ren of Deaf Adult/s) wrote a fantastic article in response to those videos like the one TODAY showed – have a read here.
These “inspiring” videos continue to push one of the most problematic narratives in the history of the Deaf community: that deaf people are broken and therefore need to be “fixed.”
Yep. We are not broken. We do not need to be “fixed.” We do not need to be made “normal.” There’s no cure for deafness.
I’m thrilled when people read an article about people in the Deaf community or see a cool video in American Sign Language and think to send it to me. It means that I’m making a difference, however small, in helping to educate people about the Deaf community.
I can resonate with that. I am beyond stoked when I see an article or a video about the Deaf community, Auslan and sign languages. It really does make a difference to us when the public and the media make an effort to capture our community and sign language.
We are a collective. We need to work together to keep reminding that language is a gift for deaf people. We need to show the public that having access to both sign language and English is a gift. We need to show that bilingualism is a gift.
Sign language empowers deaf and HoH people, especially children. Having access to both sign language and English empowers deaf/HoH children in both worlds and ensures they are better equipped for their future.
It’s not all about hearing aids, cochlear implants and speech therapy. It’s all about empowering deaf/HoH children with language. Language is a gift that can be given to anyone.
We don’t have to force deaf/HoH people to be a part of the Deaf community. Instead, we can teach them about our language and culture. They can choose if they want to join us or not. The ball is in their court.
There are deaf and HoH people who move in between deaf and hearing worlds, and that’s perfectly fine. After all, 90% of deaf/HoH children come from hearing parents.
We can show them that deaf and HoH people are capable of leading normal (what is normal these days!?) and successful lives. Even these who use sign language 24/7.
Essentially, we keep on educating the public and the media…even if they continue being biased about the gift of hearing.
All in all, language – both sign language and written and/or spoken English – is the BEST gift you can give your deaf/HoH child.
Deaf children have a right to a quality education, like all other children, in a language and environment that maximizes their potential.
Human Rights Watch, 2013.
And I leave you here with this amazing yet thought provoking video…