Daily Archives: May 21, 2010

Commentary on “my sister came home from school wanting books on sign language”

i’ve seen this come up on facebook, several times and “liked” by several of my fb friends:
“When my sister was younger she came home from school one day and demanded I take her to the library so she could get books on sign language.I asked why? She told me there was a new kid at school who was deaf and she wanted to befriend him.  Today I stood beside her at their wedding watching her sign “I DO””

a quick search shows that this STORY is posted on several pages, including a phishing page, and a feel good page full of the types of platitudes that do more harm than good for people with dis-abilities.  (think positive.  don’t complain, don’t raise REAL social issues, cause that’s just negative.)
so as a dis-ability rights activist, addressing real issues of access and human rights on a daily basis, i ask:
where is this school that has one student who is deaf?
how was this child taught sign as an integrated part of language development,  if not in school?
where were the other kids who were deaf?
how did this child learn, if the teacher didn’t sign, and if the student didn’t receive instruction with other students who spoke his language?
how may women who are deaf “like” this post about a hearing woman marrying a man who is deaf?
can “deaf studies” be taught in arizona schools?
why does this story make hearing people feel good?
if this was a story about a white girl and a black boy, would the story be as “inspiring” or would it seem trite and insulting? (and how would black women feel about it?)
how many of the people who “like” this story, have friends who are deaf or are otherwise dis-abled?
how many of the people who “like” this story are outraged or even notice dis-ability discrimination, refuse to patronize restaurants, stores,  educational institutions, non-profit organizations, health care facilities etc. that are not fully inclusive,  demand sign language interpretation at all public events, demand classrooms with “special” education students  fully integrated within the general population and with full funding and materials to insure real educational access, and an assertive anti-bully campaign to protect students with dis-abilities who are more likely to be the targets of bullies?
demand that parents with dis-abilities have full  access to their children’s educational institution as easily as parents without dis-abilities?
do people who “like” this story find my questions offensive or over sensitive?  are more comfortable with dis-ability defined by people not considered to be dis-abled (in this case, hearing people) than by people with dis-abilities?
how many have attempted to communicate or have had actual contact  with people who are deaf?
what really matters to people with dis-abilities is: justice, access, inclusion, empowerment, self-definition.  exceptional stories about isolated people with dis-abilities really don’t help us much and have much more to do with how people without dis-abilities feel about their relationship with people with dis-abilities, than with how we identify ourselves, what we need, or how we see the dominant society which my romanticize the company of one or two of us who “break free” from the imposed isolation, and in the context of deafness, from their larger community and identity, but does little to really engage people with dis-abilities or include people with non-conforming physical characteristics into the larger society.
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