Do we oppress deaf-blind people?

Posted on 30 November 2006. Filed under: Deaf-Blind |

Deaf-blind people, just like sighted deaf people, must deal with communication barriers on a daily basis. Some technological advances, such as computers with Braille readouts, bring them into the communication mainstream. Other technologies create new barriers.

But most of the time, what creates barriers to full communication access isn’t technological innovation. The largest barriers often are created by attitudes–not only among hearing people but also among sighted deaf people. When we forget to actively ensure that deaf-blind people are included, then we exclude them.

An articulate deaf-blind woman named Christine Roasachert (sp?) has written a commentary that I hope you will read. Her focus is on videophone technology and deaf-blind people. But she also raises important questions about how we, as sighted deaf people, can sometimes inadvertantly oppress deaf-blind people. Are we doing enough to support our deaf-blind peers by ensuring that new technologies for sighted deaf people, like video phones, don’t exclude them? For most of us, I think the answer is, “No.”

Her post is at: http://blog.deafread.com/mishkazena/2006/11/30/deaf-blind-and-videophone/

In repsonse to this, my question is: How can we make Gallaudet a more accessible environment for deaf-blind people? And how can we in the wider deaf community ensure that technologies that are so exciting for many of us, such as videophones, do not leave deaf-blind people further behind?

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One Response to “Do we oppress deaf-blind people?”

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Oh definitely I’d say the Deaf community do oppress the Deaf-Blind community. All communities of any kind do some kind of form of oppression either deliberately or out of ignorance.

I’m sure some of readers will disagree with me but if you ask me, I’d say that for the most part, the oppression on the Deaf community is out of ignorance meaning it is an education issue.

I know I’m guilty of perpetuating this oppression on some level or other. It was not until Gallaudet I met and interacted with deaf-blind individuals. Some of my most cherished friends are Deaf-Blind who has been so patient with my inconsiderations in the past. They have taught me so much and I’m grateful to them.

First lesson I learned was that they do not need any kind of pity or sympathy. Do not feel sorry in any way for deaf-blind persons, period. Some may have difficulties coming with terms of their blindness especially those who became blind later into their lives but really that’s their own problem not ours. The best we can do is to be supportive and encourage them to meet other deaf-blind persons who have come to live a rich life of their own. Treat them just anybody else and do not give them special treatment just because of their sight status. If they make special requests such as sign slower in a darkened room or whatever, there’s nothing wrong with complying. After all if you had a friend who is ‘fine’ in each way but is sensitive to strong scents and asked you please not to light a particular candle or put on a cologne/perfume, you would respect his or her wish. It’s not special treatment, it’s about respecting others’ wishes and desire to be comfortable with and around you. They would do the same for your requests if they are friends.

We could discuss how we could combat the oppression until we are blue in our faces (finger tips?) but basically there’s two things we can do – educate ourselves and others on deaf-blindness issues and ask the deaf-blind community what we all can do together to make the general Deaf community a better place for us all.

After all would you like it if a table of people got together to discuss how to improve the social and institutional oppression of the Deaf community and everybody are hearing – no Deaf person is there at that table?


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