Anonymous wrote, “He wore hearing aids, which didn't help much because the sound was so distorted. Our son opted for a cochlear implant starting at 12 years old, and was finally allowed one at 15. He enjoys the pure sound that hearing aids could not provide.”
Anonymous made mention of using hearing aids, which were not working very well at all, and then moving to a cochlear implant, which their son was able to use and eventually earned an AS degree at a community college. This is an example of a deaf person using accommodations to get by in the hearing world. Accommodations are what I’d like to talk about today. Please keep in mind that the story of Anonymous’s son is in the very small minority of deaf people who are the closest to fully accessing spoken English with their accommodations. Anonymous says he enjoys the pure sound that hearing aids could not provide. Kudos to you, but for most deaf children, that is far from the reality. Technology cannot consistently provide full access to spoken language, and it is fairly rare to find a ‘success’, though the ones that are often become the spokespeople for such technology. Have you ever heard from the ones who weren’t successful? My intuition and experience tells me it’s probably a no, and it’s not because they aren’t out there. They far outnumber the successes. The success of Anonymous's son does not represent the majority of deaf childrens experiences with cochlear implants.
That covers deaf people in terms of accommodations for accessing spoken language. There are more accommodations I did not mention, but I’m sure you get the idea.
For Deaf people, using hearing aids or cochlear implants is not generally for accessing spoken English. It’s used primarily for catching background noises or alarms, etc. Because Deaf people us ASL, there is already full, 100% access to a language, which is something most deaf people don’t have. Instead of using a technological accommodation to gain access to a spoken language, they use a different kind of accommodation – certified ASL/English interpreters. Deaf people use interpreters for doctor’s appointments, meetings, graduation ceremonies, classes, etc. The interpreter relays the spoken communication into ASL while also relaying the signed language to spoken, effectively facilitating conversations between hearing and Deaf. This is just as much an accommodation as hearing aids and cochlear implants, the difference being that certified ASL/English interpreters allow Deaf people to fully access spoken English, which is something hearing aids and cochlear implants cannot consistently do. Also, this an accommodation for hearing people who cannot access ASL. Imagine that, we need an accommodation, too. Or, we could just learn ASL ourselves and eliminate the need.
The whole point of my writing this is to show how much easier ASL is and can be than technological accommodations that encourage trying to do things in a language that’s not fully accessible. Everyone can sign, and if you don’t, there is an accommodation available. One may point out that interpreters are not always available for Deaf people to use when interacting with hearing people, or vice versa. That is true, interpreters are not always available. But what of written English? Why can’t that be an option? There is no reason a deaf child cannot learn to master reading and writing English by the time of their high school graduation at the same level of competency as their hearing peers. Anonymous made some comments about past and current practices of deaf education. This will bring me to part 3, which will help clear up the truth about deaf education, and will also be posted soon. Thanks again to those following this blog.