An article from Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald has blazed its way through Facebook and Twitter this morning, about Dimity Dornan, an Australian woman who, after winning an award for her business (which is said to help deaf children ‘hear’ through early diagnosis, advanced hearing technology and therapy), went on to compare deafness to polio in her speech.
Dornan said that deafness “is a scourge in our world but it can be almost completely eradicated.” Click here to read the article.
The problem is that when you start talking about deafness using the rhetoric Dornan does, you move a long way away from a positive approach to the way many people live with deafness, deaf culture and the unique language deaf people communicate with.
If you say you simply want to consign deafness to history, which is the title of the article, then to many deaf people that feels like you want to get rid of and wipe out a big part of us, and what makes us who we are.
Whatever Dornan’s achievements, she should be more careful about the way she speaks about deafness (which is, after all how the children she helps will go on to identify themselves in future: as being deaf) and acknowledge that many deafies don’t feel they’re living with a “scourge,” or that they’re living with something that needs to be “eradicated.” They’re simply getting on with trying to live positive lives, as deaf people.
Following news of the comments spreading, a deaf woman wrote an amazing open letter published on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation website: http://www.abc.net.au/rampup/articles/2011/10/13/3339101.htm
There’s also a transcript of an ABC news report on the controversy here: http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2011/s3338699.htm