The deaf and hearing impaired, for obvious reasons, are at a disadvantage when it comes to communicating in terms of speed, visibility, and technology. But they also suffer the disadvantage of others’ intolerance, impatience, and ignorance. Some discriminate simply because others are different, some because they can’t be bothered to try and communicate, some because they assume everyone can hear and that the deaf are “ignoring them, being disrespectful”.
Discrimination starts early, in attitudes toward education. Some deaf people are subjected to oralism, the the misguided view that the deaf should be taught how to read lips and how to vocalize for the benefit of those who can hear. It creates and perpetuates the idea that sign language is not the best way to communicate or that the deaf should not primarily communicate with each other. They believe that communication amongst the deaf “isolates them” when in reality the deaf are being isolated from their peers. They end up denied a signing language, potentially leaving them illiterate. Here’s the story of Julie Smario, a woman who struggled with oralism and became a leader in California’s deaf community.
Discrimination can include bigotry, abuse and violence. Early in 2018, a woman’s parents were abused and humiliated by the staff of a KFC store in Tennessee. An employee intentionally covered her mouth with her hand while talking to the couple, preventing them from reading her lips. A man named Jim Beach tells the account of his older brother’s death at age eight from bullying, likely killed for being deaf. Beach’s entire family are deaf. In August 2018, two men in Manchester, England were assaulted by teenagers because they were deaf. One of the men died of a stab wound. In 2013, a man in North Carolina was stabbed by a gang member in a bar for using sign language, or “making gang signs” as the attacker claimed.
And that’s before mentioning multiple incidents of police violence and multiple murders perpetrated against the deaf. Allegedly, cops are supposed to be taught some level of sign language, but many apparently don’t want to make the effort. Cops falsely claimed in 2014 that Jonathan Meister was “making threatening gestures towards them”, so they tasered and beat him repeatedly.
Next: Being left out of technology and society