Whose Decision Is It?

In a New York Times article covering the protests over the appointment of a hearing president to Gallaudet University last October (see the link to the article below), the following statistics were cited: "With 96 percent of deaf children born to hearing parents, according to research by Gallaudet, many parents choose cochlear implants for their children at an early age, and 81 percent choose to mainstream their children into hearing classrooms." This made me realize that the decision to introduce a hearing impaired child into either a deaf community or a hearing community is made for the child before he or she is even old enough to know the difference. Oftentimes, it seems that these children are being shoved into a culture in which they do not naturally belong — they have to rely on adaptive and assistive technology in order to function more "normally" within it.

Children with hearing impairments are born into a hearing world. Most deaf children live with hearing families, and even those born to deaf parents must face a larger hearing society outside the home. With all of the talk about properly placing children in the appropriate educational settings, as well as the debate over cochlear implants, it's clear that children with hearing impairments have little choice over the culture in which they exist. They are either mainstreamed or not, and there's little they can do about it.

Until college. At Gallaudet University, deaf individuals have made a choice to immerse themselves in a deaf community and to live within deaf culture. For many of these students, this is not only their first opportunity to fully engage in a deaf community, but it is also the first time that they have been able to choose which culture to adopt. Despite the more complex debates over how communication should be handled within Gallaudet, the fact remains that its dominant culture is not hearing. In a society that is constantly debating the pros and cons of a deaf culture, and of children fitting or not fitting in to it, it's refreshing to see that there is, at some level, an opportunity for deaf individuals to make their own choice.

Read the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/21/education/21gallaudet.html?pagewanted=2&ei=5088&en=6671945f49d3e9a5&ex=1319083200&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

This page was created by Jimmy Sarakatsannis.