|Patti Durr mentioned the December 2011 OMB report that led to Bill HB 1367 being drafted. I decided to have a look for myself and here it is: |
Indiana OMB Report
After reading it, several items stick out:
1. The point is hammered that each ISD child costs $45-47,000 per year to educate while a mainstreamed child costs $1,000 beyond the normal cost of public education. (Really??? Only $1,000 to cover the cost of interpreter, counseling, and tutoring support services, plus various speech and hearing services?? And how many services are paid for by outside agencies, such as speech and educational services, psychiatric or counseling help, social work and extracurricular expenses?)
--This is attractive to anyone in the business of saving money who ignore deaf issues (i.e., communication and socialization, multiple disabilities and family need of support). A politician that wants to force budget cuts is going to be popular among voters that have no understanding what is involved.
2. The stakeholders that were consulted in this report did NOT effectively include any Deaf adults nor graduates of ISD. They are missing from the list of stakeholders mentioned. It is all from input by HEARING people, as if equivalent Deaf professionals are considered inconsequential.
3. It acknowledges there is an oral-ASL divide then ducks it. Rather than discuss its points and weaknesses, the OMB report simply "blames the system", i.e. implies an incompetent ISD management.
4."The system" supposedly involves a lack of a central place that gives "unbiased" information about education of deaf children and says that the ISD early parent program is biased toward the ASL side. Again, the people who have no understanding of deaf issues are going to be attracted by the idea of removing it from ISD, without realizing that ISD is bilingually supportive of both ASL and English and includes oral training in all its school programs.
5. Parents who wanted their kids to attend ISD earlier than approved by local school boards are acknowledged and mention is made of "streamlining" their wishes. That's good. However, the "system" that put roadblocks here are decentralized...which this report apparently wants to increase, not decrease. Parental involvement is promoted both ways: if the parent wants mainstreaming or ISD, the parent is supported either way.
6. Overall, the OMB report says ISD "mismanages" its funds and needs to cut back on its operating costs, and additionally needs training to meet state educational guidelines. The separation of the outreach program looks like a slip-in, hidden in a push to cut budget, but it actually will increase costs at the state level. The OMB report also makes the school look incompetent and implies the parent outreach program would be run better once taken out.
Wrong in many respects.
While it is good to explore ways to improve any institutional system, this report is wrong in many respects. It is an engineered paper intended to serve specific agendas, to cause changes that do not involve Deaf adult input, to weaken ISD by reducing Deaf board involvement, to arrange systems so that in the future Deaf enrollment can be reduced by people NOT involved in Deaf education disciplines, and cause eventual closure of the school through attrition of its students.
Fight fire with fire
The way to fight this "second wave of oralism" is on the same financial grounds that their proponents are using. We need accountants to set up sample what-if scenarios: what is the impact on the taxpayer if various scenarios were to happen? What is the impact on the local economy? What is the impact on the Deaf child that grows up and enters society? What is the eventual impact on society? We need sociologists to illustrate the socioeconomic successes that we have right now and their backgrounds. We need Deaf parents to come forward and say "I will send my child to ....school because....." and make a case for their credibility.
Patti Durr is correct in saying that the OMB report uses language she has never seen in other government documents. Frankly, it is unusual to criticize a government-supported program in a government paper to the point of saying it suffers from "a lack of management and budgetary expertise" and that "some ISD employees do not understand the state’s processes in areas such as budgeting, accounting, human resources, and procurement." Fixing the parent outreach program is described as "Early intervention begins with the accurate identification of hearing problems followed by the unbiased provision of resources and options to parents." which hints that improving education starts with improving the hearing problem!
Yes, I am deliberately omitting portions of this last quotation, but with a devious purpose. Those who immediately recognize the ironic overstatement are those who work with Deaf people; those who wonder "Huh? Isn't that an obvious solution?" are either totally clueless and/or have only heard about the few who succeeded despite having partial hearing.
Utilize those who intimately know the problem from the inside out
Indiana needs to recognize that its Deaf professionals know what they are talking about and that it is a gross miscalculation to leave them out at all levels--government, the school board, legislation, and administration. One token person isn't going to do it. As in the hearing community, we need a broad range of input from an increasingly rich variety of Deaf professionals, now more numerous than ever before in history. The OMB report and IND H1367 deserve to be trashed as flawed and agenda-ridden efforts.
News media and reporters are not the most brilliantly perceptive people in the world. Any person with a hearing issue is likely to be called "deaf" and their accomplishments are likely to be said "in spite of..." or "due to the miracle of..." Stories about the newest hearing devices are usually accompanied by "cure" or words alluding to it. There has been one spectacular example in the past week: the video of Sarah Churman that went viral.
Why it went viral: people love these kind of sob stories. The reader is a sucker for stories of miracles thanks to modern technology and his need to DENY that there is such a thing as absence of hearing is assuaged abundantly. Firemen-saving-kittens-stuck-in-a-tree stories appeal to this crowd.
Denial and Cures
What is it that makes people hurry to "fix" us? The word was used deliberately. Ohh, the kid's deaf! Ohh, he doesn't hear consonants! Hang a hearing aid on him! Better yet, hang two hearing aids on him! Doctor, where do we get cochlear implants?! Reading the comments below Sarah's YouTube video shows a few examples of parents picking up hope from the video and asking their audiologists if they "missed something" and could their child have a similar middle-ear implant?
Chris Heuer nailed it when he said: "My teacher wanted me to have that hearing aid on, because that’s what other people wanted… from the audiologist to my mother to the principal. Something was supposed to be done about the problem of my deafness, you see, and if I had that hearing aid on, regardless of whether it worked or not, something was being done. That’s what mattered."
People don't like insoluble problems. Sick? Take a pill. Car break down? Replace the alternator. Bad neighbor? Sue him. Want a new carpet to replace the old? Get a loan. Everything is fixable, and our definition of what a problem is and how to fix it is frequently narrow and lacks alternative solutions. Deaf? Now THAT is a problem. Only one way to fix it: get the hearing back at all costs.
Then we have people who defend the people who are involved in the quest to hear again. Mike McConnell is one. Immediately he jumps on people who point out the flaws in such cures by way of electronic and mechanical devices: "Why is it so hard to congratulate a grown deaf adult seeing the immediate (and emotional) success from her implantable hearing aid in a video?" He has written several consecutive blogs, each insisting that Sarah is deaf four different ways and is still deaf when she turns off the implant. He adds, "Those people need to take their brains out of the gutter and stop with the stereotyping of what deaf people can or cannot do, especially on the ability to speak well. This is especially true coming from deaf people themselves which serves only an ironic and hypocritical reminder. Yet people continue with this conspiracy theory thinking something's afoot. Practically insinuating that she is not deaf because there is no way she can speak that well. No way!! Well, get over it folks, she is deaf."
We are NOT talking about the same people.
People who have even a slight amount of hearing at some point, or who were born with hearing, are able to make the most of it in many cases and these are the ones most helped by hearing aids or later cochlear implants or the new implantable middle-ear device. Those with excellent auditory memory do the best of all. That the media and some bloggers continue to categorize them as "deaf" is misleading: these people are not, NOT deaf.
There are so many different types of hearing LOSS. I used this word deliberately. They are people with auditory memory going way back, even unconsciously; they have brain pathways in the speech range that worked at one time, and may still work. Then they "suffered" a LOSS. The memory traces are still there, however.
Hard of hearing people have this, too. McConnell, himself hard-of-hearing, acknowledges that there are different types of hearing LOSS, but he makes the mistake of lumping profoundly deaf people into this group. These are people without any auditory memory from birth, and even with early cochlear implants, may not always develop useful hearing as Heuer points out in his article.
A few profoundly deaf people have cochlear implants and are said to be living as hearing people, such as the Chaikof sisters of Cochlearimplantonline.com. Many, as all of us personally know, do not hear as well and as many stash them in drawers as those that use them. (Heuer)
Truth for Readers
So, for the sake of truth in blogging and truth in reporting, let us carefully use the word "deaf" to mean exactly that. Deaf: having little usable hearing for speech. Having little usable hearing for environmental sounds. Having little usable hearing even with devices. Additionally: having been deaf from early on, they are well adapted and comfortable in life as deaf people. They are often also culturally Deaf, which means they have the comfort and support of an entire community united by a common language. Their lifestyle is built around everything except hearing.
When talking about the other kind, such as Sarah Churman's example, let us use the expressions "hearing impaired" or "hard of hearing" even if there are times when they are functionally deaf. These are the people who frequently use the word "disability" and seek medical or audiological help. A lifestyle, therefore, built around the quest to hear a large part of the time.
We're good citizens
Normally most Deaf people don't fear the police, despite the unhappy encounters that have been reported in the media of Deaf people being mistreated or killed by zealous police officers. Most of us believe that if we continue to behave as reasonable people, we will be treated reasonably by conscientious officers who recognize that good-citizen quality in us. And it is true most of the time. However, one must ask questions when one hears about exceptions to this. How safe are we, really? Are we more safe from criminals than from police?
Police are trained to defend themselves first before any other person. This is because they would be ineffective protecting citizens if they were themselves harmed. In defense training, they are taught to kill, not disable, in a weapons confrontation. They must gain control of the situation first and ask questions later. As citizens, we are taught by our parents to always respect authority, especially armed police. Usually things work out well as long as there is a minimal level of communication. Rogue cops that use their positions to express their own aggressiveness or corruptness are another matter, equally of concern to Deaf people who may not understand the extra danger they represent.
Recently, my college-age Deaf son substituted for two newspaper carriers on vacation. I volunteered to drive for him as his own car was not up to the task. In the darkness of the suburbs at 3 a.m. we began the routes, taking papers from the warehouse to cruise up and down unlighted streets, searching for houses or mailboxes with numbers, and failing that, searching neighboring houses for clues to figure out the correct door to drop a paper. Son carried a powerful rechargeable flashlight from his tool kit: it could look like an assault weapon from a distance. We also tried regular flashlights, but they did not work as well.
He walked across lawns in total darkness, first approaching one house then another, his flashlight sweeping across fronts for numbers that might be above the garage, beside the door, inside the screen, or on a little sign on the lawn. The beam danced here and there, settling on a place and he would walk up, toss a paper or tuck it inside the screen door. The delivery list had specific instructions: on the porch, in the mailbox, beside a milkbox, back door, side door, etc.
This went on without incident until the second dark morning when we stopped at a closed business. Immediately we were blocked by two police cruisers. I held up a paper and smiled, Son did the same. Minimal communication. The first officer came to the driver's side window, at first hand on gun, then taking it away when I motioned "write" and reached for a pen.
"Were you delivering papers up the street earlier today?" We nodded.
"Ok. There have been reports of burglaries on this street, so be careful." We agreed. They let us go.
As we continued on, I thought of scenarios, as only a mom would:
- Son going into a back yard to insert a paper at a building with two living units. He finds and fumbles with the latch of a gate.
- A neighbor calls 911, expecting the worst. The words are emotional and scary. It's not the regular paper deliverer--who can it be?
- Police arrive silently, hoping to catch a burglar in the act. They see Son emerging from the darkness beside a house.
- They yell at him, but he unexpectedly turns away and goes into the darkness of another side yard, carrying something in his hand that looks fearsome.
- Out comes the guns. More commands.
I don't have the heart to continue this what-if scenario any further, but you get the idea.
It's not so rare
There are other common scenarios: a Deaf person is standing in a convenience store unaware that a robbery is in progress. The perps are gone before the police arrive, but they see the Deaf person and immediately take action to "neutralize" him. Or a hearing person suspects a Deaf person of molesting a family member when he's unaware that he is blocking her way. Or the Deaf person is not obeying commands in an emergency situation and gets roughed up along with miscreants.
The actual news stories are not too far off from these imaginary scenarios. Deaf man walking in public with his whittling board and a small penknife. He is shot in the back and dies. Deaf man with slow bathroom habits is attacked with tasers and tear gas and taken down. Deaf man walking ahead of his mother on a public street is unexpectedly assaulted and wrestled into a fatal heart attack. These alarming situations seem so farfetched one can discount them and say "won't happen to me", but the fact that these situations are so normal is itself alarming. If a nervous cop can kill someone out of a blue sky because of failure to communicate, it can happen to any of us.
Hopeful plans to have "liaison police officers" and Deaf citizenry working within police departments are good as they can sensitize police to deaf people among the public, which can be as much as ten percent of the population. However, this is a big difference from emergency situations where people who don't fit expectations are considered at best, disposable. We need to establish guidelines for this--how to detect people who may not be hearing or understanding orders to obey, how to establish expectations, and how to extricate them from the situation.
We've all experienced misunderstanding and erroneous assumptions from other people. The gamut runs from the harmless and inconsequential all the way to extremely dangerous. In these times, it pays to be proactive.
The Naysayers: Defenders of the Status Quo
This blog will address some negative opinions about Deaf by deaf people. We call them the "naysayers"-- people who reject the concept that we have a culture and a language that are recognized as equal to other cultures and languages. (Disclaimer: we still must remember that in a free world, their opinions are also as valid and have equal importance to any opinion held by culturally Deaf people. Yet, one has to wonder. )
For naysayers, the objective is to defend the oral way of life or oral skills. Alexander Graham Bell proposed a world in which people try to forget that some are deaf; and deaf people forget that they are deaf. In other words, deaf people are to be invisible.
Naysayers resist the movement to recognize Deaf Culture and raising its importance as if it threatens their preferred way of life. Since they were raised to believe in Hearing norms (everybody shall hear and speak), a Deaf-centric focus is not only strange, it apparently requires them to change their lifelong orientation. A paradigm shift to one of "we can accomplish equal satisfaction and establish our usefulness without a need to hear and speak." Instead, they feel more comfortable in being invisible and to forget that they have hearing issues.
People who were fortunate to be born with partial hearing or an oral talent can get further with oral training than those who were born profoundly deaf with a left foot in the mouth and skills abounding everywhere except reading lips. People with oral skills land the first jobs and grab the first opportunities offered to deaf people, and are more welcomed everywhere. That's why schools for the deaf offer oral training to every kid just in case.
( Certain courses should also be offered to all d/Deaf children, just in case: visual skills in language, the arts, drama, dance, videography, use of hand tools and devices; i.e. skills not requiring hearing and speaking that are likewise critically needed in the wider society.)
In truth, the oral camp need not be defensive. The Hearing community already favors them and handsomely supports all efforts to create semi-Hearing people from their ranks. For naysayers to be writing and preaching to the Deaf community about the desirability of an oral lifestyle and education is like beating a dead horse--long after the horseless carriage has been invented. The odds and public opinion has always been on their side.
History of Deaf Self-Awareness in America
At one time, deaf people were regarded as an useful pair of hands; as many were absorbed into society in any capacity they were shown. In Martha's Vineyard they blossomed because of a common language; not only did they take equal place alongside hearing people, they also ran businesses, owned property, and even became elected to public office.
Schools for the deaf began to open across the nation, a few founded by deaf graduates of other schools or of Gallaudet College. Deaf people began to form clubs and teams and to raise families within those communities, and to socialize with each other when not working for their relatives or family friends.
Then education with an oral philosophy began to gain prominence. Suddenly deaf people became less than normal unless rigorously educated to become "semi-mutes", as Alexander Graham Bell called it. Almost overnight, a standard was invented: everybody shall hear and speak. With that, people began to think of nonspeaking deaf people as people of lesser status. Semi-mutes, many of which were deafened after they learned speech, became the stars of the oral schools, were given special status and all approaches to education was based upon their achievements. They also defined success in the hearing society because they could hear and speak. Besides suppression of sign language, formation of a community of Deaf people with intermarriage was also decried as undesirable and would result in a "deaf variety of the human race."
Deaf people didn't waste time fighting the oral suppression. They founded NAD the same year that the Milan 1880 resolution passed, and fought for equal rights and for respect of their sign language. When postlingually Deaf people became sparse thanks to vaccinations, prelingually Deaf people took over. Gallaudet College began to admit deaf students to their Normal School (teacher's college) despite the lack of positions available in schools of the day. We soon began to see Deaf superintendents, Deaf people in administrative positions in government and agencies, and as professors in colleges. Engineers appeared in industries, replacing the Deaf printers of yesterday. Computer programmers began to multiply not long after that. After a long period of rarity, Deaf teachers again became more numerous.
Rise of Naysayers and Doubters
The Alexander Graham Bell Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing organized an Oral Deaf Adults Section and recruited some of the more prominient oral deaf people. Scholarships were granted to those who attended oral schools and were admitted to hearing colleges. The ODAS was tapped for publicity programs and demonstrations of the success of oral schools. Publications mentioned them frequently and their writings carefully selected for the Volta Review and its sister publications. Advertisements and publications everywhere promoted the deaf person who successfully "made it" in hearing society on its terms. The overall result of this aggressive publicity had an unintended consequence: it devalued the signing Deaf citizenry as a people.
The Internet exploded and brought with it previously-invisible but articulate Deaf bloggers/vloggers. Then we saw the rise of the occasional naysayer who disparaged the renaissance of Deaf society. Some were hard of hearing, or had been schooled in oral methods. Some had been raised to be proud of their oral skills and not to need sign language. Some were social isolates or had experienced rejection during school years, or else were not comfortable for various reasons with culturally Deaf people. Along with a few who thrived socially and prospered, the alienated naysayers grew bolder, and tried to minimize the growing importance of a Deaf Culture.
Certain pro-Deaf groups sprang up: the Deafhood group that based its self-empowerment principles upon a book of the same title by Paddy Ladd of England; the Deaf Bilingual Coalition that focused upon making ASL available to deaf babies and toddlers; the Audism Free America association that identified root causes of audism and exposed them; smaller groups that promoted ASL as a linguistically valid language and its teaching; along with a groundswell of Deaf pride and Deaf identity consciousness.
Naysayers were uncomfortable having a Deaf cultural identity. With hard-earned oral skills, their ability to function in Hearing society as invisible deaf people, naysayers ironically felt their belief system was being devalued. Despite the relatively large numbers of hard of hearing and orally-raised people and the comparatively small numbers of culturally Deaf people, naysayers stubbornly write their opinions of Deaf Culture as follows (exaggerated for emphasis):
Deaf is not desirable. Deaf is selfish and odd in expecting to be respected as an equally valid cultural group. It is impractical. It is better to be like Hearing, to adopt Hearing characteristics and to live by Hearing standards. Deaf wants to take away the choice to be like Hearing. Anybody who thinks Deaf is a culture is lesser in intelligence and maturity, if not irrational.
Not all with oral skills or partial hearing subscibed to this viewpoint. Many more were comfortable with their bicultural status and easy function in both Deaf and Hearing society. The few who felt threatened were on the fringes of either group or were like the proverbial "one-eyed man in the land of the blind" who secretly wanted to be king, and feel compelled to write their disaffection repeatedly.
The Cochlear Implant
Some Deaf indeed did seem irrational in being against the cochlear implant as "an attempt to eliminate Deaf society." An innovative surgical procedure seen against a background of oralist overexpectations and overt oppression of Deaf culture. In the first years when failures were suppressed and disappointments more common than successes, this was a position even the NAD agreed with. However, today times have changed--since devices have improved, the NAD now takes a neutral position leaving it strictly to the medical sphere and having little to say about its everybody shall hear and speak goal.
The naysayers seized upon this early opposition as evidence of an irrational Deaf society and continue to talk about the CI today as if it were a proven instrument that works more often than it actually does. They predict the medical extinction of Deaf culture and Deaf society, and welcome the closing of schools for the deaf as if to prove themselves right. However, the trend now is for Deaf people to regard the CI as an imperfect tool with possibilities but not an end goal in itself, as is the hearing aid.
Goal of Naysayers?
Why do naysayers spend energy writing about shortcomings of the Deaf community, predicting its extinction, and vigorously defend oralism and the CI? Some may be those who see their objective as supporting eradication of deafness, some are hopeful relatives; and some may be businessesmen or politicians who just wish them gone.
And some are deaf or HOH people themselves, who are disturbed by a signing community that they percieve as closed. They could be afraid of competition, of having their livelihoods negated or taken away from them, or fear of being regarded as one of the growing-more-visible signing Deaf. They need not worry; their own ranks are more numerous than those of the signing Deaf.
Is the culturally Deaf population indeed headed for extinction, as some think? No. Statistically there will always be a certain number of d/Deaf people in society and the foreseeable state of medical enhancement still does not guarantee perfect hearing for all. The next blog will be about how the small culturally Deaf population is beneficial to society and why we should actively preserve it rather than leave it to chance or the naysayers.
This blog will be playing devil's advocate. Not all hearing people (or even all deaf people) believe this, but there are enough who are saying it for us to be concerned.
We have evidence of whole societies and nations becoming extinct--either by disaster or by design--and with each one we lose something. Whether we accept this as inevitable points to the quality of humanity we possess. Do we consider these as necessary extinctions--the elimination of the weak, the annhilation of the meek? If we are accepting that the Timucua Natives of Florida became extinct at the hands of the colonists, so do we accept that the remaining tribes such as the Cherokee and Choctaw nearly disappeared at the hands of Andrew Jackson's armies driving them out of the South? Does "survival of the fittest" apply to human beings, and do we care?
Medical advances changed people. Those that would have died in infancy, we save and some grow to adulthood and achieve great deeds. Whole generations of African and South American tribes have been saved from epidemics or famine. And we turn on ourselves with a medical eye, in the quest for normalization unquestioningly condoning the elimination of the deaf among us. Those who are "normal" cannot understand the implications of eradicating deafness wholesale by any means available. The goal is indisputable: everybody shall hear and speak as if that were a minimum level of competency or fitness to be a human being.
Everybody shall hear and speak. Nothing is said about Deaf people having an advantage in certain jobs such as working around aircraft, in noisy factory settings and bowling alleys. Or in wind tunnels or subways. Even in the mindless cacophony of the typical office, a computer operator who is deaf has powers of concentration that fellow workers envy. Yet these same people are frequently told they are unable to work at these jobs because hearing is required.
Everybody shall hear and speak. Anxious parents who cannot imagine any future for their deaf children rush to implant their children and spend millions shuttling their kids from doctor to doctor, therapist to therapist, looking for a cure, an answer, hope. If they somehow met a working Deaf person or a professional Deaf person, they might be reassured that hearing and speaking are not neccessities for a happy life, after all. But still...! And parents are today counseled about abortion if an amniocentesis shows that the next child will be deaf. All in the name of good medical practice.
Everybody shall hear and speak. Politicians look at the cost of special education and vocational rehabilitation programs only to consider whether it is cheaper to just give them a marginal education and then give them SSI. Commercial people grumble about the cost and inconvenience of special accomodations while they squeeze profits from the larger population. Producers of mass media have to be dragged kicking into installing captions in all visual and auditory materials.
Everybody shall hear and speak. Big corporations seize upon this priority to research and manufacture hugely profitable ways to "normalize" deaf people, from surgical implants to businesses providing speech and hearing therapies. Professionals trained to make people hear and speak earn more than professionals who simply teach deaf people to become independent and self-supporting. Medical people frown behind their masks when deaf patients have babies. The ultimate goal is that deaf people would disappear by making deafness a curable, preventable medical condition.
Everybody shall hear and speak. Communities grow around this expectation and "tsk-tsk" over deaf people who are killed crossing railroad tracks or are shot by trigger-happy cops, saying "poor things, they should have heard." Loudspeakers blare away, announcements bounce all over the place, and the deaf person who misses his train or her plane gets a "tsk-tsk" and are grudgingly handled as special-needs exemptions. (Yet, there are places where deaf people are gladly welcomed--such as paying customers in car showrooms.)
Everybody shall hear and speak. This justifies the great expense and variable results of extraordinary tactics designed to make them hear and speak. After all, it is (theoretically!) cheaper to put an implanted child through public schools than a dedicated school for the deaf. It is assumedly cheaper to implant everybody than it is to retrofit all the public address systems and caption all the TV shows. It justifies the salaries of professionals whose sole objective is to "restore" hearing and "make" people speak. Last to be considered is a school system or even higher education institutions friendly to those who do not hear in spite of everything that is done.
Everybody shall hear and speak. This is an absolute expectation by people who feel threatened if people were not expected to hear and speak. People believe that deaf people suffer. So that they never have to face its reality, more will go along with programs to make everybody hear and speak, opposed to programs that also make the same people independent. It's as if the ability to hear and speak alone will solve all other problems.
Everybody shall hear and speak. That is the way it always has been and will revert to in any deviations from the norm. Special accommodations inconveniences other people, impedes development of the future, and slows down progress. People will consider those who do not hear and speak dependents and have little regard for those who fall below expectation, and permit the government to support them on SSI than to provide quality special education.
Realistically, we must face the fact that the direction is to eliminate deafness, the medical condition, and by corollary, all deaf people, including the culturally Deaf. It is irrational and illogical to preserve life with a "missing sense". After all, this is a hearing world and everybody speaks.