Tarry for the Nonce

May 10, 2006

Just Fingerspell Everything

Filed under: Rambles — lmwalker @ 5:43 pm

In my recent studies of deaf language and culture, I have been surprised at the cliques I have noticed.

The newly chosen president for the nation’s only liberal arts college for the deaf is drawing protests from faculty and students, some of whom question whether she is “deaf enough” to lead their school . . .

[Jane K. Fernandes] was born deaf but grew up speaking, and she didn’t learn American Sign Language until she was 23. She now characterizes herself as a “fluent signer” who can understand and be understood by everyone on campus.

“There’s a kind of perfect deaf person,” said Fernandes, who described that as someone who is born deaf to deaf parents, who learns ASL at home, attends deaf schools, marries a deaf person and has deaf children.

Whether or not her ASL background is truly the reason behind the campus protests, I believe what she says about the concept of a “perfect deaf person.” In my (admittedly limited) experience, there is a significant bias against the deaf who grew up in speaking homes, use hearing aids, try cochlear implants, etc. And then there is a whole other snobbery in the area of language choice, be it ASL, SEE, CASE, etc. It is especially difficult for one to learn to communicate when one is concerned about giving offense.

Fortunately, I have a patient roommate.


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