A variety of blogs/vlogs concerning the upcoming demonstration at AG Bell conference have been popping up from time to frequent time leading us to think thoroughly and to look back what AG Bell has done in the past decade. We already know who AG Bell was and the kind of philosophy it carries in the organization. But how much do we know about its function since the turn of the 21st century?
Found on the AB Bell website, here is the statement in "5 Best Practice Criteria" claiming that AG Bell is providing UNBIASED information about all available communication options when a child is diagnosed with a hearing loss. Now isn't that what really happened? So come and join the memory lane as we go back to September 2002.
It mentioned that:
"In September 2002, the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) initiated a legislative outreach program to establish educational policies that incorporate auditory learning and spoken language options for children with hearing loss and their families through an early intervention Best Practice Model.
The following spring, AG Bell developed five “best practice” criteria based on data collected."
To increase awareness of auditory learning and spoken language options and education by ensuring that parents receive UNBIASED information about all available communication options when a child is diagnosed with a hearing loss.
Five Best Practice Criteria:
Parent(s) who have children identified with hearing loss must receive a printed, standardized resource manual that includes clear, objective, explanatory information on each communication option:
a. Auditory-Verbal (Unisensory),
b. Oral or Auditory/Oral,
c. Bilingual/Bicultural (ASL/ESL),
d. Cued Speech, and
e. Total Communication
2. Parent(s) must receive a standardized, printed resource manual from a state-designated representative trained to present the information on communication options in an UNBIASED and impartial manner.
3. Designated representatives who provide information to parent(s) must participate in annual trainings and workshops to develop knowledge of all communication options and topics relating to hearing loss.
4. Interagency agreements, state guidelines and task force committees will provide the mechanism by which parent(s) and children receive cooperative visits and information sharing between early intervention providers, early hearing and detection programs and non-profit agencies providing services to children with hearing loss.
5. Criteria are mandated to be provided in each state as a Best Practice Model.
Now my next question is how many workshops were provided about bilingualism? ASL? They claimed that they are unbiased but we obviously know that the information provided is not well-balanced.
I have looked for the past seminars of this year and here are the topics:
March 29, 2007 - Advocating for a Cochlear Implant Child Throughout the Education Process
July 19, 2007 - Back to School with Cochlear Implants: The Top 10 Things Parents Need to Know
August 30, 2007 - Partnering with Your CI Audiologist: How to Get the Best Possible MAP for Your Child
September 13, 2007 - School Bells: Supporting Children with Cochlear Implants in the Classroom
September 27, 2007 - Maximizing Outcomes with Minimal Resources: Tips for CI Kids Without Access
October 11, 2007 - Hearing with Two Ears: Bimodal or Bilateral
UNBIASED? Come on, who do you think you are fooling?
Now what did AG Bell exactly say about ASL on their website? Here, I found one mere passage about ASL that stated:
“American Sign Language is a manual communication method taught as a child’s primary language, with English taught as a second language. American Sign Language is recognized as a true language in its own right and does not follow the grammatical structure of English. This method is used extensively within the Deaf community, a group that views itself as having a separate culture and identity from mainstream hearing society.
For more information, contact the National Association of the Deaf."
Note that NAD lists almost everything that contains pro-AG Bell methods (cochlear implants, listening devices, etc.) in their website showing that NAD is more inclusive than AG Bell. So who is UNBIASED here?
When you click on the bookstore site, do you see any ASL materials? Heck, no. So how could they claim that they provide UNBIASED information on communication options? I am getting a bit confused here (**scratching my head**).
About scholarships, it only awards to deaf students who are capable of speaking and listening regardless there are non-aural/oral deaf who would be qualified for a scholarship, too. "The AG Bell College Scholarship Program offers scholarships ranging from $500 to $5,000 for students identified with moderate to profound hearing loss since birth or before acquiring language. Scholarships are available to students in any field of study who use speech and residual hearing and/or speechreading (lipreading) as their primary mode of communication." Do you call this UNBIASED?
Even here in the same website, it spelled outloud that "through publications, outreach, training, scholarships and financial aid, AG Bell promotes the use of spoken language and hearing technology." UNBIASED?
In addition, they did mention something about Children Legal Advocacy Program (CLA) that they complained that there is not enough oral practices (exactly the opposite of what you just presented). They said:
"Access to spoken language education is denied as a result of inappropriate placement.
These cases involve either public or private school placements where the school district refuses to place the child in a program that will enable the child to acquire a spoken language education. Instead, the placement offers an ASL-based program, a Total Communication program or a mainstreamed classroom without needed support services."
This tells us that they are advocating for every deaf child that they deserve aural/oral practice instead of using ASL only. Of course, AG Bell is clever and careful enough not to bash ASL on their website. However, action speaks louder than words and this is what we can hear. It is amazing that they are taking on this platform since there are far off MORE deaf children deprived of ASL than ORALISM especially today. I couldn't even identify that many schools who deny spoken language education to begin with unless I am mistaken.
AG Bell slogan is, " Hear from the Start, Talk for a Lifetime". Knowing that hearing babies sign from the start then learn to talk, why should it be other way round for deaf babies? It just doesn't make any sense to me.
So if they are advocating for auditory/oral practice, why can't we advocate for ASL instead of using speech only? I have yet seen any stong organization to advocate ASL instead of speech alone and this is why the birth of the Deaf Bilingual Coalition is needed. Why should we be silent about this? No one has organized such demonstration at AG Bell Conference for 127 years so it is time to be heard.
Since AG Bell has to do with the influence on educational policies, it becomes our business. It also has the influence to the legislative and us as tax-paying Deaf citizens, it becomes our business. It affects many, many deaf children and it becomes our business.
It is an awakening period for the Deaf Bilingual Coalition to be born! Kudos to JohnF. Egbert to initiate DBC!
Be silent no more!