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Deaf Gain Reflection - Why does our fascinating human variability go unnoticed?

Hazel's picture

We were always taught that deafness is a loss/lack of hearing ability, that it is an unfortunate reality, but what if it is the other way around? What if it is a gift, what if deaf people are luckier than us as they have received access to a dimension of living and communicating that we would have never discovered as hearing people? We should learn from those we used to perceive as ‘lacking’ and reflect on why our ways of perceiving the world are considered the norm. 

The reading says, ‘Highly visual, spatial, and kinetic structures of thought and language may shed light into the blindspots of hearing ways of knowing’ - I am not sure if the use of the word ‘blindspots’ was meant in that way, but I find it quite ironic that, once again, it points out the lacking on the part of hearing people rather than the deaf. When deaf people create spaces for themselves (and others!), it is not seen as an accommodation, but as an embodiment and integration of the culture and values of human connections, of visual awareness and intentional use of space.

Additionally, sign languages are ‘a particularly rich medium for poetic image and metaphor’ thanks to their visual and embodied nature. According to the reading, the sense of presence in a conversation for deaf people comes through the face of the other, so deaf people are likely able to build more intimate connections than hearing people because of the mode of their language, attention to the body, and having to look out for one another while conversing and beyond. Even hard sciences like biology are better explained and remembered when using a sign language as it is visual and recreates the biological organisms in a more realistic way.

All that makes me think- why does our fascinating human variability go unnoticed? If there is so much diversity in our adaptations to the environment, ways of communication, imagination and creativity, why is it that we are automatically confined to the norm, to the majority, instead of coming together and building a rich, accessible, supportive human culture? 

Of course, it is much more complicated than that considering our history of power, exclusion, colonization and eugenics. Still, whether we are just going about our everyday lives or advocating for communities, it is essential to keep asking yourself and others these questions, and maybe some day we won’t have to ask them as much anymore.

On that note, I want to emphasize that theoretical collective culture we are aiming at should always operate under the conditions of reciprocity and equity. While there is so much extrinsic value to deaf culture, it should not serve merely as a benefit to the hearing majority, but be a fair and mutual contribution to the society that is paid for with much increased recognition, validation and access.