Monday, January 01, 2007

It's a Small Deaf Blogosphere After All

An escalating number of deaf and hearing advocates of the deaf community who created blogs/vlogs is more VISible and LOUDer than ever in history. I am just looking back on what issues have erupted in the deaf community since the wake of the Gallaudet protest. I believe that the protest was a turning point of the deaf blogosphere. Why? It gained so many watchful eyes that had triggered me, like many other newly-founded bloggers and vloggers, to analyze the need to improve and fight social injustice for the posterity of deaf people. Yes, there were existing bloggers like Ridor and Teri Sentelle before the awakening of the event but I was in the dark until the cries of the protest had led me to the light of these sites thanks to deafread.com. Kudos to you Tayler Mayer, Jarod Evans, Carrie Gellibrand and JJ Puorro (the editors of deafread.com) Mishka Zena, Joey Baer, Ridor, Carl Schroeder, and much more! I applaud to ALL of you who have been contributing your time, energy and creativity to raise our perceptions and analysis of what is the truth or not, what should have been done or not, and so forth. As I'm currently flying on a plane returning home from a wonderful escapade, I'm able to find my time to reflect by thumbing in most of my thoughts in my sidekick. Going off the point, it looks like the airline policy no longer requests us to shut down the pagers when taking off. I've raised my pager on an eye level "plane" making it obvious on several recent trips and no longer have received orders from the attendant(s) to SHUT it DOWN! Oh well, that's fine with me as I am not objecting at all! Anyways, before deafread.com had existed, we were thirsty to find a variety of current deaf-related events that were scattered (i.e. Silent News (in the old days,ohh!), Deafnation (newspaper-to-internet), deafness.about.com (Actually, I didn't even know about this until deafread.com!). Certainly it was not convenient for us to "google" for information at different places, not to mention how time consuming it was to keep on our toes to keep up with deaf-related news. I felt like an ignorant, poor greyhound dog chasing a carrot in the race (not that I support the race mind you).

When Disney Park produces the theme, "it's a small world (after all)", it displays a variety of ethnic groups celebrating together in peace and harmony as the goal is to make tolerance more widely accepted about each other's culture.

But in reality, there are cultural wars in this small world where people are suffering and having to watch over their shoulders constantly. On the other hand, there are people living in multi-cultural environment being jolly with each other. It is a matter when people make choices on how to react based on what they have been taught or learned.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that when I say the word deaf, this term includes anyone regardless their degree of hearing loss since the dictionary defines that deaf means "lacking or deficient in the sense of hearing" and note that deficient means "lacking in some necessary quality or element." So "lacking in SOME"; not ALL, and "quality or element" refers to hearing are how the definition of deaf is written by Mariam-Webster team. I just don't simply understand why the term hearing-impaired is created as it is still used today. I even found this old-school term in an recent Odyssey magazine today quoting deaf and hearing-impaired, oh pul-eaze! Now, I owe a letter to the editor of this magazine!

Reading blog after blog, I have noticed that the same ole issue has been appearing redundantly which is how one perceives oralism, or how deaf of deaf is perceived, or how there are people with hearing loss who don't give a hoot about deaf culture, and so on. It looks like to me that there are three major groups of deaf people;

1. ASL signers 2. Non-ASL signers 3. Non-signers

Let's say that all groups mingle together with acceptance and work in harmony. So what does this spell?

U-N-I-T-Y, that is.

Now may I ask what will the deaf world be like if we go blind about every individuals' degree of hearing loss and that ASL is used or whatever the selection of communication mode is when it comes to socializing with each other? Is this really possible? Perhaps it is rare.

ASL is valued and protected by the core of deaf culture but it has been patronized by the others who even denied that it is a language. That is where the clash comes in so whose fault is it? There are multiple research papers about how ASL is proven as a language as originally emerged by William Stokoe and eventually it was shown how it can be used as an educational tool to teach English by respectful researchers such as Carol Erting and Cynthia Bailes. On the other hand, there are some research showing how deaf people are able to acquire English skills using other methods (i.e. cued speech). Based on my observation, people who have residual hearing may get by without ASL use that they are able to acquire English as their primary language since they have some auditory access to it but it doesn't mean that they should reject or diss ASL. It goes the same for people who rely on ASL as a primary language looking down to those who don't use ASL.

The Deafhood concept has come from a long way to get us to revisit the meaning and to absorb the elements on what it means to be deaf that every one gets to experience it differently thanks to the presenters (Ella Mae Lentz, Genie Gertz and David Eberwein) who revived the works of Dr. Paddy Ladd in the NAD convention as shown by Joey Baer in his blog and to the contributors from the internet. It took me a while to grasp the meaning of deafhood but I understand that deafhood exists when one recognizes herself in a positive light as a deaf person and every deaf individual's journey varies from one to another.

After witnessing the blogs who made some comments even some assumptions about the recent Deaf Unity Gala event in the Bay area honoring the leaders of the protest, the power of the taped event that was posted in a vlog presented by Joey Baer changed the opposing view of "what was thought." So what lessons have we learned here ? Oh yes plenty indeed! This is a starting point to untangle the complicated web where we are able to make our own steps by having open dialogue where we are able to raise our concerns and weed out some misconceptions that will eventually lead to heal and create a much stronger unification in the nationwide deaf community even at an international level if you will.

The year of 2007 shall bring us hope to form an even stronger unity among the deaf and hearing people advocating for the same cause which is a leap forward fighting oppression, audism, and the such. But how can we do that if you ask ? First of all, having the ability to step back and to make an open confession of error is the boldest thing to do. Nobody likes to admit making mistakes especially in the eyes of many readers but hey; to err is human.

Secondly, we must not forget that in order to make criticism, it has to be done in a constructive way. Heck, nobody's perfect but it is okay to disagree but insulting or degrading remarks becomes ugly leaving the b/vloggers feeling defensive/offensive leading the community even more divided. Who needs that right now in our little deaf world anyway ? Needless to say, I'd have already seen an array of ugly comments with no supporting facts shooting in public that have caused a great deal of harm to the others. If we continue to do this damaging behavior, do you actually think it'll encourage us to open up to each other let alone to unify? Finally, we need to feel free knowing that we are entitled to our own opinions without being hindered or threatened. Unfortunately, this is not the guaranteed case for all of us who take the risk to express our views online but we learn to deal with it somehow. Yeah, I'd hate to say that this is a dog-eat-dog world as well. So if you don't like whatever happens, you can either shove it, seethe about it, ignore it or better yet, respond with what YOU think in a civilized way by gathering the facts first before making comments that you may eventually regret. Sounds like a simple rule but hard to follow. Why? Human nature takes over where emotions carry a much more powerful force over rationale thinking. Having a control of one's emotion is the key by looking at the logistics yet it's the hardest thing to do. It requires learning experience from time to time, increased self-conscious and training to achieve this level. The bottom line is that, no matter who is right or wrong, no one should feel intimated when sharing one's thoughts and beliefs online as well as no one should make assumptions about anything or anyone before gathering the facts from reliable sources. Nevertheless, I just hope to see a continued trend of the birth of blogs/vlogs (see bibliomarket.com about creating blogs) in the year of 2007! As the saying goes, having a variety is the spice of life. Wishing you a prosperous blogging/vlogging new year !

"Let us not be stopped by that which divides us but look for that which unites us". ~Unknown

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey there...

I enjoy reading your blogger comments; they are thought-provoking.

ASL... hmmm... yes, it is a language, like Spanish, French, etc... The challenge is to become fluent and at the same time to master old fashioned English. My daughter, Elizabeth, is quickly becoming a natural at ASL, whereas my son is stumbling along, as expected. However, I did notice that the deaf community in where we live is more selective, so it is a bit challenging and a bit more isolating. Education... I have to admit that Bi/Bi philosophy is benefiting my daughter in ways that it is not helping my son, so I am mainstreaming him for the reason of enrichment and peers.

What works for some may not work for others.

Hope you had a great time in California!

:-) Karen Mayes