How to be an ally to the Deaf community
Allies can play an important role in fighting discrimination and oppression through the social justice movement. However, there is a fine line between support and interference. The articles listed below provide guidelines to assist allies to better understand their roles in support of a more just society. You can read about the role of non-black people in the Black Lives Matter movement, men in the feminist movement, and non-gay individuals in the queer movement.
Similar discussions are taking place within the Deaf community, where allies are especially valued because of the dominance that hearing people have over the lives of deaf individuals. For example, most deaf people are born to hearing parents with limited understanding of the Deaf experience. Consequently, the decisions these parents make for their deaf children have a life-long impact. For example, many parents chose the oral-only route, preventing their deaf children from learning an accessible communication system, leading to frustrations at home and at school. Similarly, educational policies are usually dictated by hearing professionals and politicians with little, if any, input from the Deaf community. As a result, pedagogical practices are often incompatible with the learning and social-emotional needs of deaf children. All of this makes for an oppressive experience growing up for many deaf individuals.
As adults, many deaf people struggle with discriminatory practices within the employment, housing, and public sectors, despite protective laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. For this reason, the Deaf community has active advocacy groups such as the National Association of the Deaf and Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc. to combat chronic discrimination and oppression against deaf people.
Clearly, hearing allies can be valuable partners in this social justice work. On a more intimate level, hearing allies can provide support to their Deaf friends as appropriate. Yet it is essential to identify the difference between supporting and taking over. It’s always a good idea to consult with Deaf people to determine the best ways you can be an ally.
Read a Deaf woman’s views on how hearing people can act as allies:
Here are two excellent articles that shed light on the changing view of the role of the interpreter. Even though the focus is on interpreters, the examples given illuminate an important on-going struggle.
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