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Deaf Public Relations

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:03pm

I’ve been blogging a lot lately, but I think those issues are important for us to discuss. I’m a deaf woman, with hearing parents. My mother is fluent in ASL, and teaches ASL at the college level, and used to be an interpreter. She also is an advocate for deaf and hard of hearing children here in Michigan and was responsible for the interpreter bill coming into existence and when the state budget crisis is resolved, she and many others will resume working on overhauling the state education rules on the deaf.

With her guidance and advice, I’ve learned tremendously about how hearing people think, and what messages appeal to them. With her help, I pulled off a successful protest in 2002 here in Grand Rapids, MI over a deaf woman’s deaf children being implanted with cochlear implants against the mother’s wishes. I had hundreds of hearing people who knew nothing about the deaf culture and language supporting my protest! How? Because we tailored our message to appeal to the hearing public. That is also how my protest landed on CNN with Wolf Blitzer discussing the protest and supporting our side! ( Transcript on my old protest e-group of CNN discussion )

I also was able to pull off another successful protest here again in Grand Rapids, MI over mental health services for the deaf last year.

I’m seeing a lot of dialogue about the need to change the system, and I wholeheartedly agree. We have to do something. But we also have to tailor our message in a way that hooks the hearing into paying more attention to us.

Many of us do not consider ourselves to be disabled. I do not consider myself disabled. But hearing people do. That’s a fact, and will remain that way for a very, very long time. That will only change gradually. So going around saying, ‘Never mind about cochlear implants not working. We are normal! We don’t need anything restored!’

That message will not appeal to the hearing. Period. No buts about it. You say that, and they will immediately tune you out. The battle’s over before it’s even begun.

What attracts hearing people’s attention is a message like this: “It is your choice on how to raise your child, but be aware, cochlear implants are not always successful. They have a low success rate.” (Cite sources – I need to find some myself… :P )

“And in fact, why do we teach our hearing children American Sign Language, but is discouraged for our deaf children?” will definitely hook hearing people’s attention.

We have to learn how the hearing thinks, and appeal to their way of thinking. Or else we will never win our fight for equality. They don’t care about us saying we’re normal and don’t have a disability, nor do they care about American Sign Language. They don’t give a damn. The message of equality will appeal to them, not those things we’re debating today on DeafRead.

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