|frickin research paper
||[Apr. 9th, 2005|06:37 pm]
TITLE: Not Hearing the Birds Sing or- Sound is Not the Barrier|
Belonging to the diverse population at the University at Buffalo, I have been exposed to many different cultures. Asian, Hispanic, African American, Jewish, and many others all attend the university. These people all share different cultures. They all share the same customs, beliefs and language. Every one of these cultures has their own literature, art and history. It is easy to recognize a different culture, but sometimes a culture is looked passed and not noticed. The Deaf Culture is one of them. The Deaf Culture exists throughout the world. Many people misunderstand this culture, and see them merely as a group of people with a disability. Deafness is not a disability but a way of life.
Dr. I. King Jordan once said, "It's a new day for Deaf people"(Gannon 164). In 1988, the beginning of the end of deaf misconception erupted in the halls of Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. Gallaudet University is one of the most widely known Deaf schools in the world. The time had come for a new president to be elected for the university. The candidates included Dr. Harvey J. Corson, Dr. I. King Jordan, and Dr. Elisabeth Ann Zinser. The first two are Deaf; Dr. Zinser is hearing (Gannon 15). The world had yet to see a Deaf individual hold the title of President of Gallaudet University. Students, as well as faculty, alumni and other interested people, gathered at Gallaudet to hold a rally on March 1, 1988. This rally was intended to show the support for a Deaf president . As time went on, the competition for presidency was narrowed down to Dr. I. King Jordan and Dr. Zinser. For seven days, the students at Gallaudet protested having a hearing president. Dr. Zinser was not wanted. The name of this uproar soon became known as the "Deaf President Now" protest. The news spread quickly, and as the media received word of this protest, more and more people became involved. The students wanted their Deaf president, and were determined to get one. "The problem was the attitudes of hearing people" said Ruth Ann Leach, a columnist for the Nashville Banner (Gannon 87). This was true. The hearing people did not understand that being Deaf, does not mean being dumb. The protest grew to over 1500 people who supported the Deaf president. These people held signs that read "Deaf Prez Now", "Go Home Zinser", and "South Africa has Apartheid, It's Deaftheid!” A representation of Dr. Zinser was put together and burned for all to witness as a sign of their hatred of the idea of a hearing president. They marched to the White House and showed their feelings to the President of the United States. The protestors even held a lockout of the entire university where only students and a few select officials were allowed inside the gates. The Deaf united in a way that nobody had ever expected. They got their word out, without being able to speak. This was a turning point for Deaf culture.
On March 6, the decision had been made as to who would be appointed the next president of Gallaudet University. There was no formal announcement. The final decision was published in the newspaper that read, "Gallaudet University Appoints First Woman President..." The Deaf population was outraged. They would not stand for this. They were determined to get a Deaf president. They marched again to Washington D.C. They put their feelings out and protested again, against Dr. Zinser. "A silent minority is no longer silent" said Claudia Foy, a Republican representative from Arizona (Gannon 125). She is right. The Deaf community was tired of being ignored, and looked down upon. The protestors called for four demands: firstly, Zinger's resignation and the selection of a Deaf president, Spilman's resignation from the Board of Trustees, 51 percent Deaf representation on the board, and finally, no reprisals against the protestors (Gannon 48). Congressman, Barney Frank said, "For the trustees to turn away form the entirely reasonable request of the students that a hearing impaired individual be made president of that college is a very unfortunate expression of insensitivity" (Gannon 67). It is truly unfortunate that the Deaf were looked upon as a group of people not capable of handling a position as high as president of a Deaf university. The Deaf as a whole culture were fighting for more than just a Deaf president of a university; they were fighting for respect and the dignity to be shown to the Deaf people all over the world. The pressure was on Zinser to resign from her appointed position. She held out for awhile, but on March 10, at 11:00 pm, she announced that she was resigning the position and that the new president would be Dr. I. King Jordan. The news brought great happiness to the protestors. The resignation of Dr. Zinser was a symbol that forever would be kept in the hearts of all Deaf for years to come as the symbol of Deaf Power.
A new chapter in Deaf history began the day Dr. Zinser resigned. This showed the world that being Deaf did not only mean that one could not hear. Being Deaf also means belonging to a group of people, belonging to a people who share common interests and beliefs . It means belonging to a people that share a common language. Sign language is not universal, as some may believe. All around the world, different sign languages exist, just like all around the world, different spoken languages exist. The one I will focus on is American Sign Language, or ASL. ASL started back in the 1800's when a man named Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet traveled to Paris to study. There, he met a Frenchman named Laurent Clerc. Clerc was a Deaf professor in a French school. Gallaudet fell in love with the French Sign Language that Clerc used to teach his Deaf students. Gallaudet invited Clerc to teach at his new school for the Deaf in the United States. Clerc accepted and on April 15, 1817, the first American school for the Deaf opened (http://members.aol.com/deafcultureinfo/notepage.htm). This explains why American Sign is much closer to French Sign than anything else. American Sign Language was not accepted as a true language at first. The hearing world viewed being Deaf as a handicap and in order to try to "help" the Deaf and hard of hearing, the hearing teachers at schools all around the United States would forbid the use of sign language. According to Katie Morinello, an American Sign Language teacher at the University at Buffalo, when the school authorities would not permit sign language to be used, the students would go back to their dorms and form their own signs. The signs were used only when the students were alone in the dorms. Because of this, there are many different kinds of American Sign Language all around the United States. Signs differ from one part of the U.S to another, just like spoken English dialect differs slightly from the North to the South. The use of hands in the art of sign language is obviously very important. What is also equally important is the use of facial expressions. Facial expressions along with the hand movements help a person who is having a conversion with sign language understand the context and meaning of what the other person is tyring to say. Like other cultures, the Deaf culture shares a common language.
Deaf art is beyond beautiful. It captures the feelings and passed experiences of the Deaf artists themselves. The focal point is often a human. The facial features are exaggerated due to the importance of the facial expressions in real-life ASL. More often than not, it is the hands that are focused on the most. The hands are a Deaf person's way of communication, their way of expression. Chuck Baird, a well known Deaf artist, shows hands as his main focal point in such paintings as, "Lamitola's Lily", and "Left and Right". His, as well as other artist's paintings show some kind of symbolism. They are a way of showing the world how beautiful Deaf Culture really is. In Baird's painting, "Art, No. 2", he is showing an artist signing, in ASL, the word, "art". He explains on his website, www.chuckbaird.com, that the painting is a self portrait that shows a light shooting out of the pinky like an art medium. The light is also coming from the artist's heart. Baird points out that "heart” and "art" rhyme. This painting is showing Baird's own love of art, and of Deaf Culture.
De’VIA, short for Deaf View/Image Art, is a way that artists can formally show their love of art and their compassion to Deaf Culture. De'VIA is not just any kind of artwork though. It has to represent something that the artist feels towards the Deaf or Deaf Culture. De'VIA first made an appearance in 1971. Betty G. Miller, a Deaf artist, would base her art on her experiences as a Deaf person. She was frustrated because she could not get her idea out that there was, in fact, such thing as "Deaf Art". She went to Gallaudet University and was able to arrange a four-day workshop that answered the question, "What is Deaf Art?” (Betty Miller's website) This has inspired many other artists to begin to focus their artwork on their own Deaf experiences. Deaf art is meant to show the feelings and struggles that a Deaf person goes through everyday. It is a way to show the world that there is, in fact such thing as Deaf Culture.
The Deaf community has become adapted to the hearing world very well. There are many different kinds of technical devices aimed to help the Deaf and hard of hearing. The internet is one of the most powerful tools used by Deaf people. Not only can a Deaf person instant message his or her family and friends, there are also webcams and e-mails. The internet serves as a prime level of communication for the Deaf. TTYs are another way that the deaf communicate. TTYs are text phones that are very popular among the Deaf. Closed-captioning on television and in movies helps a deaf person enjoy the simple entertainment that is found in almost everyone's homes. Cell phones have built in text messaging devices and a vibrate feature that is ideal for a Deaf person who obviously cannot hear a ring tone. Telecommunication Relay Services (TRS) are available in the United States. A hearing person is able to talk to a Deaf, or hard of hearing person over the telephone. 7-1-1 is dialed and an operator can connect both parties. The operator serves as an interpreter and relays the messages back and forth between callers. A Deaf person never has to be late. Vibrating alarm clocks are available as watches, pocket alarms, vibrating pager watches, and pendants to be worn around the neck. Even pill dispensers have built in vibrating alarms. Katie Morinello says that there is one very dangerous vibrating alarm clock. This alarm clock is attached to the entire bed of a Deaf individual. This may seem like a good idea, but in fact, many of these vibrating bed alarms have been known to catch fire. Hearing Ear Dogs, or dogs for the Deaf, are available for the hard of hearing or Deaf population. These dogs are rescued from abandonment and from animal shelters from all over. They are trained to do many things. They are trained to hear and respond to the following: fire/smoke alarm, telephone, door knock, doorbell, oven timer, alarm clock, name call, and even a baby's cry (Robin Dickinson's website). With a pair of good ears in the house, a Deaf person's home is sure to be safer and more efficient. Deaf culture uses technology to it's advantage.
To understand the most controversial technological advance in the Deaf world, one needs to learn a little bit about the pathway from the ear to the brain. There are three parts of the ear; the outer, the middle, and the inner ear. Sounds travel to the outer ear and cause the eardrum to move the bones in the middle ear. The movement travels to the inner ear, or the cochlea. The cochlea contains many hair cells. The hair cells are moved when sound vibrations enter. The movement of the hair cells causes electro-chemical signals to travel through nerves and to the brain (bernafon.com). Some deafness is caused by damage to the hair cells in the cochlea. A cochlear implant can be used to help a Deaf or hard of hearing person regain some lost hearing. The implant uses electrical impulses to carry sound from the outer ear, around the damaged cochlea, and to the brain. The patients who receive this implant do not hear like a normal hearing person. Due to the little amount of electrodes used in the implant, compared to the thousands of hair cells in the human ear, the sounds the patients experience haave been discribed as "robotlike" (Turkington 2). The implant's benefits include being able to hear better, and being able to function in a hearing-dominant world. The risks, and negative aspects of the implant far outweigh the benefits.
Receiving a cochlear implant has many risks. Although the surgery is only one to five hours long, there are still dangers that go along with any other surgery. The surgery involves making an incision behind the ear, breaks a bone in the middle ear, and intertwines the electrodes through the cohclea. Infection, dizziness, and facial paralysis are some of the risks involved with the cochlear implant surgery. It takes a month to recover from the surgery before any of the outer parts of the implant can be attached. After the patient is fitted with the proper external gear, they are faced with a lifetime commitment to speech and sound therapy. Children who receive the implant are more likely to benefit fully because they have much more time to learn how to speak and hear then adults do.
What is in store for the Deaf community with the growing use of cochlear implants? There are differing views on this subject. In Cincinnati, Ohio, a three year old boy receives a cochlear implant. Everyday he wakes up and turns it on. He has had this implant for six months and can already understand what his father says to him. In Washington, D.C., there is a twenty-two year old who has had a cochlear implant, but hasn't turned it on in five years. This situation is common. The younger children are receiving more cochlear implants than older people. With the growing popularity of cochlear implants among children, some people fear the extinction of Deaf Culture. If Deaf children are implanted, then what is the point to keep around a school for the Deaf, such as Gallaudet University? Deaf culturalists predict that soon, the enrollment to Deaf schools will decline so much that many will be forced to go out of business. Matthew Moore, publisher of Deaf Life magazine says, " We don't see ourselves in terms of 'hearing impairment' [...] being Deaf is a gift, a cause for pride." Moore is emphasizing the point that if a baby is born Deaf, let them be Deaf. Let them see the beauty of Deaf Culture. The parents of these children are not giving them a chance to be part of the Deaf culture, nor the hearing culture. If a child has a cochlear implant, they are viewed as neither hearing or Deaf. This can cause the child to feel like less of a person because they don't entirely fit in with hearing or Deaf. The Deaf are proud to be Deaf.
Dr. I. King Jordan explains his views on cochlear implants, "The whole thing's overblown. Culture changes and people change. I disagree with those who say if cochlear implants increase, that's the end of Deaf culture. There will be changes, but I don't think they will be that profound." He goes on to explain that when hearing aids were first introduced, many people also thought the end of Deaf culture was close. Jordan states that the hearing aids did not close down Gallaudet, and neither will the use of cochlear implants (USA Today). Vice president of Gallaudet's Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center, Jane Fernades, says that she is not worried that Deaf culture will cease to exist because of the cochlear implants. "I think [Deaf culture's] here to stay, because it's a human expression in language. ASL poetry, ASL drama, is another form of human expression and art that will not stop because of technology" says Fernandes. (USA Today). Cochlear implants do show possible decline in the Deaf as a population, but the Deaf culture is here to stay.
Culture is defined as, "the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought". The Deaf do, in fact, show characteristics of a culture. They have their own language. This language is not universal, but changes from place to place, like many other languages. Deaf art is a symbol of pride among the Deaf. They have their own clubs, such as the Buffalo Club of the Deaf. There is such thing as Deaf plays, Deaf poetry, and Deaf storytelling. Deaf culture is all around. The world just has to close it's ears and open it's eyes.
Miller, Betty G. Ed.D. Betty G. Miller. 2003. 23 March, 2005. <http://bettigee.purple-swirl.com/index.html>.
Dickinson, Robin. Dogs for the Deaf Inc. 24 March 2005. < http://www.dogsforthedeaf.org/index.htm>.