Hello again! It has been a long while. My excuse (and it is a damn good one too) is that I have been consumed by the monster(s) that we call Law School Finals and the writing competition. It wasn’t pretty, but I finished everything, and now I can return to my blogging.
This topic has come up a few times and many people seem to have strong feelings about it – my decision to use the d/Deaf label. One may ask why I choose such a clunky way to refer to one community (deaf)? Yes, we can all be under the illusion that we are a single and unified community, unified by our common hearing loss. However, I feel like this ideation of ‘deafness’ does not face reality. What most of us in the d/Deaf community consider ‘d’eaf are people who generally exclusively use spoken and written English language and have minimal contact with the ‘D’eaf (i.e. signing) community. The ‘D’eaf community is, by default, the community full of people who use ASL in their everyday lives. Of course, such categorizations are rarely neat and tidy. Hell, I’m a living example to that. I use ASL often, but not quite everyday. I use spoken English everyday and for about everything, but I wouldn’t call it my exclusive form of communication. However, despite the fact that the labels do not always fit everyone, categorization serves an important purpose: to reach general conclusions.
Now, the million-dollar question is: what kind of purpose does splitting the deaf community into two serve? I’ve thought long and hard about this and reached one conclusion (perhaps not the only one of the day) that these two groups face different struggles in the legal world that should be addressed separately. For example, ‘D’eaf lawyers seem to have even more difficulties finding a job than ‘d’eaf lawyers do – perhaps it is because of the latent discrimination against people who do not use speech or the chronic difficulties of ASL-based education. Moreover, ‘D’eaf students must deal with receiving appropriate interpreters for law school and their jobs (a gigantic feat unto itself). On the other hand, ‘d’eaf lawyers must deal with misconceptions about their disability – you would be surprised how many people assume that, just because one can speak clearly, that one can hear well. Also, ‘d’eaf lawyers must deal with receiving their own form of accommodations, and oftentimes, law school is the first place where they truly needed classroom accommodations.
Also, categorizations serve an useful way for us to understand the world. The human mind must divide, compare and contrast in order to reach any useful conclusions. It is futile to think that calling everyone who has a hearing loss, ‘deaf,’ will help us in our quest to improve access to legal employment for d/Deaf persons. Also, I think the Deaf community is such a vibrant and interesting community and should be recognized separately, but equal to, the greater community that ‘d’eaf people are involved in.