Random Thoughts and Musings by moi

Musings by a feisty, opinionated Deaf gal who wants nothing but the best for her community and her people

vendredi 9 juillet 2010

Challenge the Status Quo - It's OK!

It's an exciting time in the Deaf community. The National Association for the Deaf is poised to announce the replacement for outgoing Executive Director Nancy Bloch any day now. Naturally the finalists for the position are a subject of interest and lively discussion in the community. NAD has held a special place in our hearts since 1880, when it was founded to fight for Deaf people's civil rights.

I'll be blunt here in my assessment. I cherish NAD. I cherish its proud history of preserving ASL and the strong leaders it has helped to foster. I have fond memories of helping plan a Jr. NAD conference at my school when I was in high school. George Veditz's 1913 speech about preserving ASL in the face of oralism and efforts to eradicate ASL still sends chills down my spine. Yes, it sends chills down my spine because of its beauty.

Veditz's speech also sends chills down my spine because it still rings true today. We are still fighting powerful special interest groups that want to eradicate ASL and Deaf culture today.
And I blame NAD. Yes, you heard me. I believe that NAD bears part of the blame for this state of affairs.

Allow me to be clear. Special interest groups and corporations bear the vast majority of responsibility and blame for creating a state of affairs where they are allowed to promote a one-sided ideology so entrenched in our government and educational system that it is very difficult to wrest control away from them. They have created this monster that allows them to profit off us at every turn. They are more culpable here than anyone else.

BUT we entrusted NAD with the watchdog role. They failed and are failing us. We all bear responsibility for not paying attention earlier. But NAD really dropped the ball here. They stopped focusing on the big picture - the idea that we are perfectly fine the way we are and deserve to exist, and instead started to focus almost solely on communication access and employment. While these are important and NAD has made gains in these areas (most notably the recent committee passage of HR 3101, the Internet captioning bill), they are only a small part of what NAD's mission originally was and needs to be again.

One excellent example of how NAD has failed us is EHDI - Early Hearing Detection and Intervention. This is a government program designed to identify newborn babies as Deaf, excuse me, diagnose babies with hearing loss. It is placed under the jurisdiction of the Center for Disease Control, as if being Deaf were a disease. NAD was part of the coalition that fought to establish this, because we all know that one of the best predictors of success for ANYONE is complete, unfettered access to language. So of course early detection seemed like a no-brainer. But since EHDI was founded, it has fallen under the control of NCHAM, the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management at Utah State University. Management? That's right. Hearing is something to be managed! It is headed by Karl White of USU and he is VERY anti-ASL, based on what I've been told by people who have met with him directly over the past few years. Add to that the common knowledge in Deaf education circles that Utah is strongly tilted toward oralism. It becomes necessary to ask:
How did NAD allow EHDI to fall under the control of the Center for Disease Control and in the clutches of the National Center for Hearing Assessment and MANAGEMENT?
The answer: NAD was asleep at the wheel. But try talking to NAD employees, supporters, or ex-employees, and they'll point out that NAD has attended every single national EHDI conference. That's the right thing for them to do. They SHOULD be attending those conferences. But their going to every conference makes it even worse. Why weren't they fighting for control? Why weren't they preventing well-funded corporate forces of oralism from seizing control of such an important government program AND our tax money? Why weren't they presenting at EHDI conferences? Why weren't they lobbying on our behalf at conferences? Why weren't they networking? The list of questions goes on and on.

There are many more examples of how NAD has lost its Deaf center. NAD has decided to try to be for "everyone." Mistake. NAD was for everyone before. The difference was that its mission and center were clear. Now its center is clear as mud. It's limited its focus to subsistence level. In trying to be for everyone, NAD forgot that almost every other organization to do with Deaf people has a clear focus and mission. The Alexander Graham Bell Association is very clear in its focus, for example. NAD was the only nationwide organization that lobbied for culturally Deaf people who use ASL. Now by diluting itself, NAD has created a vaccuum that has yet to be filled. The Deaf Bilingual Coalition has made major inroads in EHDI by focusing on the fact that every Deaf child's birthright is ASL/English bilingualism. They have presented at EHDI conferences, they have met with Karl White more than once, and lobbied for Deaf babies. But that's just one part of the big picture. The DBC came into existence because NAD isn't doing its job. Period. NAD needs to re-discover its center - stat! We NEED NAD to go back to where it was.

But every time someone challenges NAD to do what's right for the community, tons of NAD apologists crawl out of the woodworks, criticizing the person who raises valid questions. I've seen people accuse challengers, asking them what they've done for NAD. Today I saw someone exhort someone else to study the history of NAD... and, um, I think the person raised questions *precisely* because he *had* already studied the history of NAD. Other gems include: "NAD has done a lot for you." "Don't be a backseat driver." (to someone who HAS been trying to bring change!) "Why are you attending NAD events?" (Sheesh! If we don't go, we're criticized for not going. If we go, we're asked why we're here. We can't win!), and accusations of trying to divide.

For NAD apologists: I have several questions for you.
Are you satisfied with the status quo? Are you satisfied with the fact that the system is failing Deaf children at every turn? Are you satisfied with the fact that Deaf children are now a multi-billion dollar commodity? Are you satisfied with the fact that ASL is now a dirty word in all professional spheres having to do with Deaf children except for the few that practice ASL/English bilingualism? Are you satisfied that our teacher training programs and the body that establishes standards for such are firmly under the control of oralism? Are you satisfied with the fact that audiologists, who stand to profit off listening and speaking and not off ASL, are the point of contact for parents of newly identified Deaf babies nationwide? Are you satisfied with the fact that we are a divided community because of ill-conceived laws that divide us? Are you satisfied with the fact that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act explictly defines the least restrictive environment as mainstreaming with no support and schools for the Deaf as an absolute last resort after the child has failed everywhere else? Are you satisfied that the organization that is supposed to be our lobbying machine attended every EHDI conference but allowed it to fall in the hands of special interest groups? Are you satisfied that NAD has limited its focus to access and employment when we don't have an organization demanding respect for Deaf people just the way we are?
I would *love* genuine answers to these questions from apologists.

These questions are also especially timely because NAD is going to get a new leader very soon, and the leader is key for steering NAD in the right direction. I, for one, DO NOT want the status quo. Howard Rosenblum was the only one of the three finalists who seemed to understand that NAD needs to re-discover its center, while bringing in needed money to survive and while continuing to fight for employment and access. I'm basing this on what they said during their presentations at the NAD conference here, here, and here, and on DeafNation interviews here, here, and here.

I love NAD. I post this and challenge NAD because I truly believe it has value in our community and our lives. If I didn't care, I wouldn't bother. That said...
Let's take back NAD! Let's make it truly Deaf-centered once again! Let's return NAD to its original mission!


  • At 11:48, Anonymous The One and Only Ridor said…

    Bravo Bravo Bravo!


  • At 12:01, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    AWESOME entry

    and ya inspired me:


  • At 14:58, Blogger moi said…

    Oh, wow. Thank you, guys! *smile*
    P, I'm off to read your post now!

  • At 19:26, Blogger Dianrez said…

    There are many, MANY Deaf people who have wondered about NAD lately. In trying to cover all bases and represent all varieties of d/Deaf people, NAD has become diffused and nearly invisible.

    Can we afford to have a more strongly cultural NAD solidly on the side of Deaf people, the way Frederick Schreiber and Don Pettingill led it? Are they afraid of appearing radical the way DBC and AFA have been portrayed?

    We need to have an organization that tells people: We are MEN AND WOMEN WHO ARE DEAF AND ABLE MEN AND WOMEN. We need an organization that backs up for us both as people and as individuals. We need an organization that makes no excuses, no apologies, and no qualifications about us. We need an organization that creates programs for us to grow in different ways. We need an organization that represents all kinds of Deaf people, from the minimal language skills Deaf all the way to the professional Deaf. And we need an organization that supports parents of future Deaf communities.

    Will we get it, or just a lobby organization?

  • At 05:43, Anonymous Don G. said…

    AMEN, Moi!

  • At 10:35, Blogger moi said…

    Dianrez, thank you for your thoughtful comment! Your first paragraph hits the nail on the head.

    You raise two questions in your second, and in my humble opinion, the answer to both is YES.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your third paragraph - YES YES YES!

    As for your final question, I believe we will get it - if we ourselves become watchdogs, lovingly encouraging and supporting NAD, while we continue to expect and demand that it be what it needs to be.

  • At 10:35, Blogger moi said…

    Thanks, Don G. :D

  • At 19:44, Blogger DeafAccents said…

    Yes! You ain't alone no more! Check out my Soap Box: "Deaf Empowerment Now!" on kiss-fist.com/issue/2 (pp. 68-76). Yes! Yes! Yes!

  • At 23:01, Blogger moi said…

    I'm checking it out now. Thank you!


Enregistrer un commentaire

<< Home