TWO VIEWS OF DEAFNESS

Outline by Chris Wixtrom

Originally Published in:  The Deaf American  ·  Winter 1988

1st View: DEAFNESS AS PATHOLOGY

2nd View: DEAFNESS AS A DIFFERENCE

With this perspective, a person might: With this perspective, a person might:
Define deafness as a pathological condition (a defect, or a handicap) which distinguishes abnormal deaf persons from normal hearing persons. Define deafness as merely a difference, a characteristic which distinguishes normal deaf persons from normal hearing persons. Recognize that deaf people are a linguistic and cultural minority.
Deny, downplay, or hide evidence of deafness. Openly acknowledge deafness.
Seek a "cure" for deafness: focus on ameliorating the effects of the "auditory disability" or "impairment." Emphasize the abilities of deaf persons.
Give much attention to the use of hearing aids and other devices that enhance auditory perception and/or focus on speech. Examples: amplifiers, tactile and computer-aided speech devices, cue systems . . . Give much attention to issues of communication access for deaf persons through visual devices and services. Examples: telecommunication devices, captioning devices, light signal devices, interpreters . . .
Place much emphasis on speech and speechreading ("oral skills"); avoid sign and other communication methods which are deemed "inferior." Encourage the development of all communication modes including - but not limited to - speech.
Promote the use of auditory-based communication modes; frown upon the use of modes which are primarily visual. Strongly emphasize the use of vision as a positive, efficient alternative to the auditory channel.
Describe sign language as inferior to spoken language. View sign language as equal to spoken language.
View spoken language as the most natural language for all persons, including the deaf. View sign language as the most natural language for the deaf.
Make mastery of spoken language a central educational aim. In education, focus on subject matter, rather than a method of communication. Work to expand all communication skills.
Support socialization of deaf persons with hearing persons. Frown upon deaf/deaf interaction and deaf/deaf marriages. Support socialization within the deaf community as well as within the larger community.
Regard "the normal hearing person" as the best role model. Regard successful deaf adults as positive role models for deaf children.
Regard professional involvement with the deaf as "helping the deaf" to "overcome their handicap" and to "live in the hearing world." Regard professional involvement with the deaf as "working with the deaf" to "provide access to the same rights and privileges that hearing people enjoy."
Neither accept nor support a separate "deaf culture." Respect, value and support the language and culture of deaf people.

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