The Wall Street Journal reported last week that a new generation of hearing-impaired children are getting cochlear implants, which offers them the opportunity to hear and speak almost as naturally as people
without hearing problems. As a result, many schools for the deaf are adding seperate programs for children with the implants to teach them how to hear and speak English rather than teaching them sign-language.
Supporters of the venerable culture built up by deaf people believe deaf chilren should get a strong grounding in American Sign Language so they can participate fully in the culture when they grow up…
…they don’t see themselves as handicapped and view implants as an attempt to fix something that isn’t broken. They especially oppose hearing parents deciding to get implants for their deaf children, believing
kids should make the decision themselves when they get older. Research shows, however, that implants work best when given to very young children, who develop language more quickly than adults.
According to the article, some in the deaf community don’t see themselves as disabled…but as an ethnic group with a unique culture and language that should be celebrated and preserved. Cochler implants are a threat to their way of life. The Lompoc Record reports:
Some deaf individuals
feel that technology such as cochlear implants reinforces the belief that
deafness is merely a pathology to be cured, rather than a rich culture to be
celebrated and embraced.
This just goes against common sense. Deafness is not a way of life. It’s a significant disability. Sign language is something that was created to work around the problem.
The outrage against cochler implants, and against schools for the deaf creating separate classes geared to children who have them, strikes me as absolute insanity. I can’t believe they want to deny children the
opportunity to hear, to more easily function in the world, simply to preserve sign language…and the illusion that being deaf is like being African-America or Italian.
The deaf community should be pleased that there are finally medical advances that will allow deaf children to more easily function in the world…and that someday the technology could improve even more, someday making sign language (and the need for it) obsolete.
But some members of the deaf community aren’t the only ones with disabilities who are letting their justifiable need to promote a positive self-image cloud their common sense.
Pride is a positive thing…unless you let it blind you to reality. Some wheel-chair bound people (for lack of a better term) are outraged that "Ms Wheelchair America" was photographed standing up.
The Philadelphia Daily News reports:
Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin has been stripped of her title because pageant
officials say she can stand – and point to a newspaper picture as proof. Janeal Lee, who has muscular dystrophy and uses a scooter, was snapped by the
Post-Crescent newspaper standing among her high school math students.
"I’ve been made to feel as if I can’t represent the disabled citizens of
Wisconsin because I’m not disabled enough," Lee said.
ABC News further reported:
The announcement of the new winner Tuesday came amid a storm of protest over
pageant officials’ decision last week to take the crown away from Janeal Lee, a
high school teacher and muscular dystrophy sufferer who uses a scooter as her
main way to get around but says she can walk up to 50 feet on a good day and
stand while teaching.
During the furor, the runner-up refused to accept the crown out of protest.
Lee’s sister, who also has muscular dystrophy and was named Ms. Wheelchair
Minnesota, dropped out of the competition in that state. And the coordinator for
the organization’s Minnesota program stepped down from her job to "stand up for
"I no longer feel comfortable supporting an organization that instead of
working towards creating a positive change, chooses to perpetuate stereotypes
and requests its participants to hide their abilities while in public," said the
sister, 26-year-old Sharon Spring of Rochester, Minn.
The organization said candidates for the crown have to "mostly be seen in the
public using their wheelchairs or scooters."
So every time she’s in public she must be in a wheelchair or scooter? She’s supposed to hide the fact she can occasionally stand? My God, what stupidity.
There’s no doubt this woman has muscular dystrophy… or that she needs to use a wheelchair. She hasn’t perpetuated a fraud. She stood up. Instead of castigating her, they should be applauding. They should be thrilled that she’s able to stand…but they undoubtably see it as an attack on their way of life, their ethnicity, if a wheelchair-bound woman takes a few steps. Would they also rail against a surgery that would allow more muscular dystrophy sufferers to stand and take steps as a threat to their way of life?
To chastise a wheel-chair bound woman for using her full range-of-motion, or parents for giving their deaf children the ability to hear, is simply wrong.