Access by Various artists

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Access: Hearing privilege and Deaf disempowerment

8 Responses

  • Art Croft,

    As a young child I learnt that privileges are earned. I must have been a very good boy cos I'm hearing privileged, sight privileged, height privileged, blonde privileged, colour privileged, gender privileged, race privileged and privilege privileged.

    Well done me.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2016 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Art Croft,

    As a young child I learnt that privileges are earned.

    The world is full of unearned privilege. Try and say something useful.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22293 posts Report Reply

  • Art Croft, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Ok: Hearing is not a privilege. It's an unearned advantage conferred by nature.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2016 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready,

    This is a great article. I'd like to take the discussion a step further about the damage hearing privilege is doing to innocent children.

    Hearing privilege is leaving up to 50-60 Deaf children per year in NZ without a language. Why? Because parents of Deaf kids are being told they can make their kids hearing with a Cochlear Implant Program (CIP). 90% of Deaf kids are born to hearing parents who often suffer grief and shock to learn their kids are deaf.

    They turn to the medical profession and the Ministry of Health, not to the Deaf community, for advice. The advice is to begin a CIP and avoid New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). Unfortunately this advice is wrong. It has not kept up with the latest science which is to teach a child NZSL before beginning a CIP. That science is available here: http://www.deafchildren.org.nz/assets/Resources/Hearing-Communication/Language-Choices-for-Deaf-Infants.pdf

    The false claim is that bilingualism (English via CIP and NZSL) will reduce a Deaf child's chance to learn English.

    The sad fact of the matter is that one third of Deaf kids on a CIP do not do well on the program. They are left without a language or, in the jargon, Permanently Language Deprived (PLD). I've met young Deaf PLD kids - it is a very sad thing. It's also an abuse of the Deaf kids human rights. Now that's how damaging hearing privilege can be to innocent kids.

    NZ has been very slow to address this. California, for example, has a law, SB 210, that requires parents to enrol their Deaf kids in Sign Language classes if the kids are not meeting their language benchmarks.

    It's really time that NZ faced the destruction being wrought on Deaf people by hearing privilege.

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 111 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    The false claim is that bilingualism […] will reduce a Deaf child’s chance to learn English.

    That fear of semilingualism is an “argument” commonly advanced against teaching any language other than the dominant majority language. The only condition under which it might have any validity is where the learner is excluded from communities using both languages (in which case, the reduced input and lack of interaction is what harms language acquisition). For any other case, bilingualism enhances overall language ability.
    There’s a Radiolab episode that presents some quite compelling cases:
    (i) a marginalised Deaf man who first realised at age 27 that there was such a thing as language;
    (ii) a group of Deaf children, brought up individually with no common language, who on being brought together in one school (in which lessons were in Spanish, which they didn’t know) developed their own sign language.
    Of course, since this is for radio, their stories are told by Hearing individuals... (N.B. there is also a transcript available at the link given.)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1764 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Kevin McCready,

    The false claim is that bilingualism (English via CIP and NZSL) will reduce a Deaf child's chance to learn English.

    Yeah, this is what we were told when our son was little (though he didn't have a cochlear implant but a Moderate hearing loss): that if he learned to sign, his brain would invest in visual connections and not make auditory connections, and so he would never learn to speak. We had to choose all NZSL or all oral English.

    This changed, at least in the van Asch preschool, just a couple of years later, partly as a result of pressure from hearing parents.

    As an aside, something that kind of irritated me during the Lions tour, was that the ground announcer at every test would say, the national anthem would be signed on the big screen. Which, yay. But why couldn't the tv audience see it? Couldn't they have cut to it, or put it picture-in-picture during the singing? Would have been nice.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4620 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready,

    Good point. I think it's amazing that parents with Hearing Privilege make their kids spend literally years of time in a Cochlear Implant Program (CIP) but won't bother to spend a bit of time learning NZSL.

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 111 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Emma Hart,

    We had to choose all NZSL or all oral English.

    Whatever happened to the fad for teaching pre-verbal infants sign language? I remember that being a thing a few years ago, on the basis that speaking is beyond the fine motor control skills of infants for a long time after they start to understand words, but they can sign. And giving them a way to express themselves makes life a lot less frustrating...

    But that fad is in direct contradiction to the "one or the other" nonsense, and its existance counts as evidence that at worst it's not always true that a kid that learns sign is never going to speak..

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1038 posts Report Reply

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