I am a concerned citizen who is aware of the meeting that took place the morning of April 2 between yourselves and the grassroots Deaf activists’ organization known as Audism Free America (AFA).
American Sign Language is the most accessible, preferred language of communication for thousands of Deaf people in America today. It allows young Deaf children to bridge English more effectively through reading, writing and even speech. As an educator of the Deaf who works in a bilingual field, I have seen a huge progress made among Deaf children who are in bilingual programs that they are able to achieve a complete foundation of both languages. I also have two Deaf children who are currently in their pre-teens and they have exceeded beyond their academic level. It is not only about having both languages but identity and self-esteem that they can feel positive being Deaf. Your letter to Pepsi is very offensive to me and my family that you labeled these ASL users isolated in society just simply they cannot speak. Well, I've got news for you, there is no such thing that ASL users use ASL only as they know and use English. Your letter is nothing but demeaning and degrading to the Deaf community.
Audism Free America represents the idea that is shared by Deaf from across the country – that Deaf have the right to use and preserve American Sign Language. They understand that individuals have the right to choose for themselves a method of communication other than the language of ASL. That being said, a Deaf individual who chooses to use American Sign Language as opposed to the auditory/oral method of communication promoted by your organization should not be portrayed as inferior or substandard in comparison.
What I am asking of you is to please seriously consider the demands of AFA. Firstly, to retract the letter that was sent by your organization in January of 2008 to Pepsi. Within that letter, you urge Pepsi to “develop some creative ideas to promote other facets of the deaf community and to highlight positive role models who have met the challenges of this condition and thrived using spoken language.” Instead of promoting the interests of all the diversity within the deaf community, you have promoted the ideas your agency represents. Within the letter, you have referred to users of American Sign Language as “isolated from mainstream society,” which is far from the truth. This letter promotes a condescending and distasteful view of Deaf people who use American Sign Language, and with that, AFA is requesting that you retract this letter.
Secondly, AFA is asking that the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing work in partnership with Audism Free America both now and in the future – to promote an equal and diverse view of all people that are deaf and hard of hearing, and not upholding the message that one is inferior to the other. The truth is that struggle befalls us all, and we can attain much more if we work together to increase awareness. The first way in which you can work together will be to share AFA’s request with your Board of Directors.
However, it is impossible to move forward and leave the past behind if you have not admitted the offenses of the past. Therefore, Audism Free America is asking for a pubic apology from the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing regarding the hurtful attitude on comments conveyed by your organization thus far. With that apology comes the possibility to move on and move forward.
I am confident that if your organization meets the requests of Audism Free America, all deaf people can work together to achieve something that has never been seen before – true and utmost equality! I appreciate your time. Thank you.
*********************************************************************************So I strongly encourage you to go to the website and voice your opinion. It is your turn!