Recently my friend Dave, who is a certified sign language interpreter, shared with me an article he had come across, penned by a Deaf woman whose name I am familiar with – although we have yet to meet in person. I hope to remedy that in the near future.
You can read Teresa Blankmeyer Burke’s well-written blog post here…
Anyway, as I read Teresa’s article, I found myself heaving a sigh and nodding my head in agreement. Yup…been there, done that. I could clearly identify with much of what she had to say. I’ve experienced the same thing on more than one occasion:
Bring your own interpreter.
We don’t have the money for those kinds of services.
Everyone else is volunteering their services – why should we have to pay for an interpreter?
Do you realize that hiring an interpreter will cost us more than we are paying for our keynote speakers?
Twenty-six years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and we are still dealing with these issues. We are still having to educate, advocate and sometimes agitate.
But there’s more to this than just trying to suppress a burning desire to strangle the living daylights out of some wayward conference planner.
I posted a link to Teresa’s blog entry at a couple of Facebook interpreting groups I’m a member of.
As could be anticipated, it provoked a number of “Angry” clicks in response. That was to be expected. But what I found particularly interesting was that I also saw a couple of “crying face” responses to it. Obviously some folks found it necessary to weep over her post.
Okay – admittedly the fact that we are still addressing these issues in this day and age could drive one to tears of frustration and rage.
But as a Deaf Professional myself (although I will stop short of calling myself an academic), I have to get brutally honest here with my thoughts:
I’m not comfortable with seeing people clicking the “Sad” icon in response to Teresa’s A to Z list.
I don’t want people crying.
First of all, I should explain that I have a real pet peeve about most of those darn emojis now being used to express your thoughts on a Facebook post. Half of the time I’m left to wonder what people actually mean when they click the “WOW” icon or the “SAD” icon or the “ANGRY” icon – what prompted them to do so? What are they really thinking or feeling?
I just don’t want to see people crying over this essay.
I want them to see them feeling proud that a Deaf person wrote it. Proud that she referred to herself and other members of the Deaf Community as Deaf Academics – because many of us have rightfully earned that title. Proud that she spoke up to educate others about these experiences and how they are not appropriate and not the way to handle our communication accessibility needs. Proud that she’s educating society about what not to do when it comes to meeting those needs.
Yes, it sucks that in the year 2016 we still need to write articles like this. Yes, it sucks that we still need to deal with the issues that prompt such articles. Yes, it sucks that people still don’t get it.
But we don’t need tears. What we need are more people like Teresa… standing up and calling it like it is.
Certainly such an narrative as Teresa has written can provoke feelings of unhappiness or anger that such attitudes and behaviors still prevail in this day and age; however, we need to rise above that. We need to recognize and respect the power and strength of the Deaf Community and their growing recognition of such. More and more we are no longer content to just sit back and “accept things the way they are.” We are speaking up and signing out, and this article is a perfect example of such. That’s why I commend Teresa for writing it.
When I think about how far the Deaf Community has come in just the last ten years, my heart swells with pride. More and more, we are using our hands as our voice as we express our thoughts and feelings about our language, about our culture, about oppression, about language and communication, about accessibility, about audism and hearing privilege. We are making ourselves seen…and heard.
Mind you, I’m not denying that these issues still exist, or that they can be frustrating as heck. But at the same time, I want to help us put this in perspective. We *ARE* moving forward…painfully slow at times, but it is happening. Ten years ago, we would have never seen governors showing up on television at emergency announcements with an interpreter at their side. Nowadays not only are they using them, but they are using CERTIFIED DEAF INTERPRETERS! How cool is that???
The Deaf Community has more access to more information than it has ever had before. Technology and social media are helping to bridge that gap. We know more about our presidential candidates, more about emergency weather situations, more about racial tensions, more about the prevailing issues of the day.
And yet, at Teresa points out…we are still struggling. We still face ignorance and attitudes and resistance and all the other ugly manure that makes our lives more difficult, and our quest for full equality and communication access more difficult to achieve.
So how do we stop this insanity? How do we reduce the struggles? I have no easy answers, because these are not easy questions.
The only response that I can give at this moment is to encourage the Deaf Community to continue the fight, and to never give up – even when it feels like slow progress. And to encourage our Hearing Allies to listen and to learn…to work WITH us and not FOR us. To observe what we do, and take your cues from what we say.
And remember…there’s no crying in advocacy. Scream if you have to…rant and rave if you must. Choke a conference planner if necessary. But spare us your tears. We need your support, not your sympathy.
Sure, we have a long way to go… but we’re getting there. Sometimes it might feel that for every two steps forwards, we take a step backwards. But we will persevere, and we will achieve our goals.
Because we refuse to go back.