Comments: Considerations for Mediating with People Who Are Culturally Deaf

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Jason , Arlington VA   04/24/03
Bravo, Bravo, Bravo on great article....
I applaud you for the great article, for I will treasure this with all of my heart. Based on other people's comments, they may not realize that this article is designed for mediators who work with culturally Deaf people and who want to learn more about the Deaf culture itself. In other words, this article is not for mediators, who work with "hearing impaired" people, who prefer to rely on sounds/speaking, not sign language. Because it is just that their needs are completely different, the separate, sole article is needed to reflect the cultural needs of culturally Deaf people. And, you did it. Congratulations. Thus, it probably would be fair if we develop another, SEPARATE article, reflecting the disability needs of "hearing impaired" or "aurally challenged" people, who don't sign. If you ever plan on writing a new article about hearing impaired, then please add a hyperlink in that new article, which will connect any visitors to the article about culturally Deaf people, so they could learn more about the Deaf culture and the fact that there are two separate groups with different needs. Besides, please do not pull out the great article about Culturally Deaf from your Web site because I would like to refer all people to this site, for they will find this extremely helpful and resourceful. Also, please do not edit the article in order to include other groups, such as hearing impaired people. Thanks again for the great article. Best Regards, Jason

Hal  , Fort Worth TX   02/10/03
Since there is not enough imformation about other forms of communication used by Deaf or Hard of Hearing people, This article could catogorize me as Cultural Deaf but I am not. The Deaf Culture is very real. ASL is used primarily among the Deaf and Culturally Deaf however, there are some who use other methods for gathering information and communications. I don't see that information. Maybe it would be a good idea to do another article on the group of Deaf who are not culturally deaf. If a person read this article and then saw me as a Mediator, "How would that effect our Profession?"

Hal , Fort Worth TX   02/10/03
Considerations for Mediating with People Who Are Culturally Deaf
This is a good article about people who are "Culturally Deaf" however, I have some concerns with this article. I am Deaf myself (late deafened adult) not Culturally Deaf. I am also a Mediator. Although the article has some outstanding information the one thing which I had some concerns with are: Not making enough of a distinction between the "Culturally Deaf" and others who may not be considered Culturally Deaf. I use ASL and Interpreters when I am involved in mediation.

John Flanders, Cromwell CT     01/09/03
Another Point of View
Dear Ms. Leonard, Ms. Duren & Mr. Reiman: I am writing to express my very serious concerns with your article “Considerations for Mediation with People Who Are Culturally Deaf”. I believe that your focus solely on the perception of deafness expressed by members of the culturally deaf community, without making it clear that others exist, does disservice to those individuals who are not a part of this community. Further, I am concerned that a mediator who relied on this article may not be able to appropriately address the needs of clients how are deaf or hard of hearing. Before I explain my critique, I do want to say that I believe that your outline of issues that should be considered by a mediator working with an individual who is deaf is appropriate for one who relies on ASL. It also contains elements that would be helpful when working with a client who is deaf or hard of hearing and uses other modes of communication like spoken English. My problem lies in your description of the “American Deaf Community”. Specifically, I am concerned with two factors: First, by the fact that your description does not so much as mention the fact that the majority of people who are deaf or hard of hearing do not rely solely, or even primarily, on ASL to communicate. Second, more subtle and more dangerous, your portrayal of the origins of Deaf Culture is not balanced with the views of parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing, or others who continue to choose to use oral approaches. It thus tends to disparage the validity of those choices further discouraging consideration of the needs of oral deaf individuals. Although your article makes excellent points about the accommodations required by an individual who relies on ASL it fails to include any mention of the fact that the needs of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing are not “standardized”. As you point out, the number of people who are deaf or hard of hearing is relatively low, meaning that the average mediator is unlikely to have dealt with such a person. However, roughly 28 million Americans experience a significant hearing loss, and many have decided to accommodate that loss, primarily, with hearing technology and spoken English. A mediator seeing this article, without the caveat that it does not apply to every person with hearing loss would have no impetus to make further inquiries to determine what accommodations would be needed. When you read an article that only discusses hammers, everything tends to look like a nail. This tends to be supported by the view of people who are deaf and hard of hearing that is most common in our society. The one image that most people identify with hearing loss is that of a person using American Sign Language. Everyone has seen Marlee Matlin working through her interpreter on “The West Wing”. However, in contrast, while you were talking with my son on the telephone, you probably would not realize that he has a hearing loss as great as Ms. Matlin. Yet, he is deaf, and it would not be possible to do an effective mediation with him without significant accommodations. Reading your article, the mediator would not even know to ask about the alternatives that would work for him. Donna Sorkin a former member of the U.S. Access Board told me a story that illustrates this perfectly. She, and the rest of the Board were invited to the Oval Office to meet President Clinton. Sorkin, who is deaf and uses a cochlear implant, bud does not sign, requested an assistive listening device so she could follow what was going on. The White House accommodated, but when the President entered, he passed the sign language interpreter without a thought. When he found the microphone from the ALD on his desk, however, he demanded, “What the hell is that?” The staff had to bring Ms. Sorkin to explain, a task not imposed on those who used the interpreter. The fact is, they knew to bring in an interpreter, but it never occurred to anyone to have an accommodation for someone using hearing technology. Second, the article contains a number of characterizations which are, if not entirely inaccurate, at least lacking in balance regarding the way that people who are deaf or hard of hearing are introduced to society.. Let’s start with an easy one: With all due respect to Dr. Jordan, people who are deaf can do anything anyone else can, including hear. They may not hear the same way a typically hearing person does, they may not hear as well, but millions of people who would otherwise live without sound hear and speak with the aid of technology. This technology has advanced to the point where a child born today with no residual hearing can through the use of a cochlear implant and effective training have the same speech and understanding of spoken English as her typically hearing peers. That does not mean that her deafness has been cured, nor does it mean that parents see their child as defective, “broken”, needing to be fixed, or inferior until she uses the technology. Like those who use ASL, they know she needs accommodation. She needs access to appropriate technology. She needs to be trained in the use of that technology. And, she needs to have those around her change their behavior to accommodate the shortcomings in that technology. No one who has ever spent more than a few minutes with a child with a significant hearing loss believes that technology “cures” his condition, least of all his parents. We know that the hearing aid or cochlear implant is an accommodation, a means, like ASL, to allow the person to communicate and learn. They know that these accommodations are effective, and getting better all the time. The main difference is the fact that the oral approach allows our children to communicate in the same language as we do. Nor, in my experience, are parents discouraged from learning about Deaf Culture. On the contrary, because so many people have only seen people who are deaf or hard of hearing as signers, many parents are not told that there are means to give their child access to spoken language. They are often forced to find out about the potential of hearing aids, cochlear implants and spoken language approaches entirely on their own. For example, Maryland state law requires that a representative from the Maryland School for the Deaf attend the meeting to design a family service plan for a baby who has been identified as having a hearing loss. It does not require that the parents be informed of spoken language options. In Connecticut, where I live, the majority of children who are identified as having a hearing loss are referred to The American School for the Deaf, rather than the two oral programs Nechear or Soundbridge. I strongly object to the statement that people who are deaf are “oppressed” by a hearing society that wishes to destroy Deaf culture. I am the father of a child with a profound hearing loss. Professionally, I am an attorney who represents families with children in special education, and for two years I worked exclusively for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. I have never seen a child who was forbidden to use sign language. I have, on the other hand, seen children who listen and speak as well as their typically hearing peers, forced out of a regular classroom into a separate room where they were taught ASL against their parents’ wishes. In fact, the law in most Circuits allows schools to children in a class where they are taught sign language simply because they have been identified as deaf. The fact is, people are used to seeing the use of sign language. They perceive it as the only way that people who are deaf communicate. They accommodate it. However, until more people realize that people who deaf or hard of hearing are not identical, that they have individual approaches to dealing with their situation, it will be difficult for some people to get the accommodation they need. Your article made mediators aware of the fact that they may face clients who have different needs because of their hearing and their culture. You made excellent suggestions for ways to address those needs. That is a very good thing. However, you failed to point out that there are others with the same condition who have different needs. You failed to say that you were addressing part of the issue, and by doing so may have prevented a mediator from looking further and seeing the full range of needs. In doing that you did a disservice both to the potential clients and to the mediators. I hope you will consider revising this piece. I only ask that you tell your readers that there are many people whose needs may not be addressed therein. You might also give information so that a reader would know where to look for help accommodating a person who is not a member of the Deaf Culture. Thank you for your attention. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.