Hear Me, Hear Me

By Dan Fogg

A disability is a characteristic. It is an identifying feature. “My name is Dan, I have auburn hair, hazel eyes, I’m in a motorized wheelchair. I’ll be wearing a green shirt and jeans. I’ll meet you outside the restaurant around three.” But it’s still a disability. It’s still a basic human ability that a person happens to lack.

Advocates of deaf rights have latched onto a recent medical development called cochlear implants, devices implanted in a deaf person’s ear that makes them at least partially able to hear. The device should be implanted at a young age and destroys any residual hearing the person may have. The decision to undergo the procedure should be considered carefully. But the reasons some people give for not undergoing the procedure are confusing.

Advocates of deaf rights argue that being deaf is who they are and to correct their deafness would be to shun their culture. It’s impossible to go on without pointing out the absurdity of this. If you lack the ability to hear, that is a medical condition that severely affects your life. So when someone offers you a way to correct that, how do you say you don’t want it?

But you don’t have to understand or agree with a position in order to respect it. In the end it’s up to each individual to decide what to do with their hearing. The problem comes when the advocates start pushing their views in the media. They talk about the “deaf community” and the culture that they share, and they don’t realize what they’re doing to promote segregation and prejudice.

People of varying race, of varying age, of varying gender and sexual preference have fought and continue to fight to be treated as equals among other people. They fight against hate, against bias, and against the idea that they are separate. Disabled people fight the same things, and everyone tries very hard to be part of the whole that is the human race. But you can’t be equal to everyone else and segregate yourselves at the same time.

The “deaf community” is an idea that deaf people share a common bond and should help each other with support and friendship. But in lumping the deaf together like that, it perpetuates the idea that they should be separate. And if they’re separate because they’re different, shouldn’t all different people be separate?

All people should be treated equally, we try to teach that every day. Then we go home and separate ourselves into groups with common traits. In order for others to treat us as equals, we must treat ourselves as equals as well.

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