Friday, April 03, 2009

Is Audism a Legitimate Word? And Gallaudet, isn't this an error?

It is true that the word, audism, has not yet been found in most dictionaries (both books or online) except for Urban Dictionary (not exactly a credible dictionary though) that talks about an "audist establishment". It even includes the word, audism, that defines "the descrimination of the hard-of-hearing. Instead of color descrimination prevalent in schools, audism has become an increasing problem." Nah, not even a good definition anyway let alone a spelling error so a lot of improvement needs to be made. However, the definition under "audist establishment" is a bit better.

It stated :

An establishment that misinforms and ill-educates people about deaf and hard-of-hearing people. (

"The teachings that ill-educate people about deaf/hard-of-hearing such as they are isolated, inferiors, illiterate, stupid, savages, dependents, objects of sexual exploiting, second class citizens, objects of experiments, lazy, passive and benefactors to medical and science fields."

As we use the word audism and that it is not found in dictionaries yet it doesn't mean the word is not legitimate or official because audism has already showed up in many citations.

I know that based on history, in order for a new word to be written in a dictionary, it has to appear frequently in published articles or books. Also, it has to be used frequently by the community. Take the word, AIDS for example, it did not appear in the dictionary before the 80's but when more and more citations use the word, it officially became accepted to be used in the dictionary. In conclusion, the more the citations are used talking about audism, the more likely it will end up in the Webster Dictionary and other credible dictionaries. See the link on what does it take to have a new word written in the dictionary.

Tom Humphries was a Ph.D student back in 1970's and wrote a piece of dissertation found in this link.

Tom wrote that audism means:

"The notion that one is superior based on one’s ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears. It is the bias and prejudice of hearing people against deaf people, It is the bias and prejudice of some deaf people against other deaf people."

Tom Humphries,"The Making of a Word : Audism" (1975)

I find it interesting that he even admits himself as an audist as he was brought up as a hearing person. He wrote:

"Most of my life, I have been an audist myself, and even now still have some behavior and values that are basically audist. I believe this to be the result of being brought up as a hearing person with basic hearing person behavior and values." The word audism was buried and forgotten until Harlan Lane published his book, The Mask of Benevolence: Disabling the Deaf Community (Lane, 1992).
According to Absolute Astronomy, it stated that:

"Audism occurs when a deaf person is judged as incapable of a given behavior, occupation, etc. simply because he or she cannot hear. Audism is often coupled with a 'hearing' superiority: an attitude of thinking one person is superior to another person because he or she can hear better than him or her. Audism takes another form concerning interactions between the deaf: deaf people who will not use sign language and who will not identify with the Deaf community may consider themselves to be 'better' than others who use sign language and are part of Deaf culture."

When reading FAQ on Audism from Gallaudet website, I was surprised that Gallaudet University did not give Humphries credit for his original definition of audism. Take a look here: From Gallaudet University:

Audism (from Latin audire, to hear, and -ism, a system of practice, behavior, belief, or attitude) has been variously defined as:

  • The notion that one is superior based on one's ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears. (Zak 1996) (I believe this is an incorrect information as it should be from Tom Humphries since he originally wrote the definition based on this link so Gallaudet, fix this on your website!)

  • attitude based on pathological thinking which results in a negative stigma toward anyone who does not hear; like racism or sexism, audism judges, labels, and limits individuals on the basis of whether a person hears and speaks. (Humphrey and Alcorn 1995: 85)

  • ...the corporate institution for dealing with deaf people, dealing with them by making statements about them, authorizing views of them, describing them, teaching about them, governing where they go to school and, in some cases, where they live; in short, audism is the hearing way of dominating, restructuring, and exercising authority over the deaf community. It includes such professional people as administrators of schools for deaf children and of training programs for deaf adults, interpreters, and some audiologists, speech therapists, otologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, librarians, researchers, social workers, and hearing aid specialists. (Lane 1992: 43)

Now who are really the audists? This will be discussed next so see you later!

More links on Audism:

Gallaudet FAQ

If you have difficulty making video comments, you may go to Update (4/8/09): Gallaudet University has just corrected the information that it now typed:
The notion that one is superior based on one's ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears. (Humphries 1977:12).


Barb DiGi said...

I don't know what happened with Disqus comments as it didn't come out so I apologize for making it difficult for you to leave comments. There has been no problems in the previous posts and the next one that was just posted today. I am not sure why this post didn't show disqus comments, oh well it must be a glitch!!

Shel said...

Barb, an excellent discussion on the term "audism"... you made it clear that it is a legitimate term by itself, and to me, it CANNOT be confused with ethnocentrism. The two are NOT interchangeable. They are each distinct behaviours fueled by prejudice.

I haven't yet read your next post. I'm going there now.


Laura Jacobi said...

Thanks for the suggestion about Gallaudet's Audism FAQ -- we're glad people are reading our web pages! The original version was posted before Tom Humphries' dissertation became widely available, and the FAQ author did indeed include that Harlan Lane credited Humphries with creating the word.

We're happy to verify that Humphries coined “audism” and have revised our web page to make this more prominent.

Laura Jacobi -- Gallaudet University Library

Barb DiGi said...

Hi Shel,

Audism is a more specific term to describe one's behavior who thinks he/she is superior over those who don't hear. Ethnocentrism is a general term to describe how one thinks his/her culture is superior than the others.

Hi Laura,

I am so glad you got to read my blog and thank you for your reply about clarifying on Gallaudet FAQ website to correct the error that it was Humphries instead of Zak who wrote the definition.

Barb DiGi said...

Shel, forgot to say you're exactly right before my comment. Gotta get another cup of coffee now!