Deaf Pride, Disability Pride
Many members of the big-D “Deaf” community commonly assert that being Deaf is not a disability. And many Deaf people — and deaf people and hard of hearing people — would not want to become hearing even if we could. Most commonly, Deaf people say it’s because we’re a culture, not a disability.
But what most of us in the deaf community don’t realize is that there are also many people with many types of disabilities who also would reject the idea of a cure. They might not talk as much about “disability culture” in the context of discussing why they don’t want a “cure” as some Deaf people do when they are confronted with the same issue. But there are still many people with a long list of disability-related labels (“cerebral palsy” “autism” “blind” yada yada) who say, “But this is part of who I am. Why would I want to change that?”
And, guess what? There IS such a thing as a rich vibrant disability community. I’m not sure whether it could properly be termed a “culture” without having its own unique language. But it is certainly a community to which most non-disabled people–and Deaf people–are relatively oblivious. And I think it is our own loss when we ignore their existence.
I say this for three reasons:
1. Some members of our own community have additional disabilities. We most commonly refer, of course, to Deaf-Blind people (and if you want to pursue a blog focused on Deaf-Blind people and their own community, check out http://tactiletheworld.wordpress.com). But some of us, asides from being Deaf, deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind, may also happen to have learning disabilities, Tourettes, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, attention deficit disorder, bi-polar disorder, diabetes, and a long list of other disabilities or medical conditions. If we fail to learn about, be sensitive to, or aware of other disabilities, then we may continue to inadvertently create barriers for full participation in the Deaf/deaf culture and our activities. And that hurts all of us as a community.
2. We miss parrallels between the experiences of people with various disabilities and our own set of experiences as Deaf/deaf/hard of hearing/Deaf-Blind people. Of course there are many differences as well, but we have more in common than many Deaf people realize. The annoyances of having to deal with Really Really Clueless Hearies Who Just Don’t Get Deafness, as one example, are remarkably similar to the stories that wheelchair users tell among themselves about Really Really Clueless Ablebodied People Who Just Don’t Get Mobility Impairments. Ditto for the stories that blind people tell about Really Really Clueless Sighted People Who … And ditto again for the stories that autistic people tell about Really Really Clueless Neurotypical People Who … (see, autistic people have a word for the rest of us, just like deaf people have a word for everyone else — our word for “everyone else” happens to be “hearing”; their word is “neurotypical”). Learning about these parrallels could help us all learn some insights about the experience of being Deaf/deaf/HOH/DB/CI etc that we might not have thought of before.
3. People with disabilities are a part of human diversity, just like everyone else. There’s always something to be gained by learning a little more than we did yesterday about people who just happen to be very different from us in some way — most particularly about all the ways in which they just happen to be exactly the same as us.
With this in mind, I’d like to point you all to a resource I just discovered today that was assembled by an autistic woman on her own blog. It’s a little old (she put it together almost a year ago) and it doesn’t cover every disability under the rainbow. But it does a pretty good job of pointing people toward further resources on the web that can help us learn about people with various types of disabilities — including some that many people commonly overlook when talking about “disabilities” (did you know that people with mental retardation do have their own advocacy movement? No, I don’t mean their parents, I mean people with retardation themselves). I hope you check it out:
[Please submit your own essay for publication at Reunify Gally! It should be related in some way to reunifying or healing the Gallaudet community in the aftermath of the protests. If interested, review my Guidelines for Guest Bloggers and submit your essay to ashettle (at) patriot.net]