Bring an end
to disability injustice
Each year, the last full week of September is recognized globally as Deaf Awareness Week. First celebrated by the World Federation of the Deaf in 1958, it provides an opportunity for the approximately 70 million people worldwide who are deaf to reflect on their collaborative efforts to promote equal rights, access to education, information and services, the use of sign languages, and human rights.
I also reflect on my deaf cultural and linguistic heritage. I am hearing, yet deafness is hereditary in my family. Members of at least four generations were born deaf on my mother’s side. Sign language is my first language and I use it daily. It is a privilege to enjoy such cultural immersion, but I know not everyone has the same experience.
None of us gets an adequate education on deaf history or disability history, let alone the full history of many civil rights movements. I received mixed messages from my hearing family, school, friends and the media. I often confronted the idea that “Being deaf is not normal, something broken, and to be pitied. It is better to hear and speak.”
It is no wonder this mindset can be one of the hardest barriers to break. It is an able-bodied attitude that permeates almost every sector of society. It is not a poverty of resources, but a poverty of imagination when providing access is looked at as a burden or an afterthought rather than an act of compassion and equality.
I straddle both the hearing and deaf worlds. I know intimately the sting of discrimination and the weight of oppression. Ableism and audism are deeply painful. I don’t ever want to add to that pain and that is why I am part of Virginia Organizing, to organize for social change. I want to help move the conversation on disability justice forward. What would the world look like if we all chose to operate from a place of imagination, care and love? “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” — Cornel West