The question is asked in the light of serious reductions of deaf access to the UK mainstream, and the increasing reluctance of people to take up supporting the deaf view of sign language.
Recent concerns mainly about UK deaf people who rely on sign language, who are using culture as a blunt instrument in the access and equality areas, and, as a valid 'argument' in access and empowerment situations, resulting in most of them getting little or none. Who is to 'blame' for prioritising culture above real time access and deaf need ?
Some facts: (Sourced from BDA/AOHL UK).
(1) There are said to be 150,000 users of British Sign Language, and 908 registered/qualified BSL interpreters .
(2) Of that figure, 87,000 are said to be deaf, this suggest a ratio re support of just 1 interpreter per 160 deaf and BSL using people.
(3) The majority of interpreters are based in England and around cities, with huge regional areas having little or no support system in place at all. A complete 'postcode' lottery.
(4) Wales had 47 interpreters.
(5) Scotland had 66 Interpreters.
(6) Ireland had no stat source to print, (I'd be glad to print any known), but said they had 60,000 deaf living in Ireland.
Deaf culture becomes a priority for deaf people (as does sign language of course), but, there are huge areas of deaf people that cannot access professional advice from own cultural areas on access, empowerment, equality or support. Interpreters are not skilled in many areas, a few specialise most don't, their job is to translate, never to advise. If you don't understand something, all the interpreter will do is tell the people questioning you that, and nothing else.
They are making huge strides training deaf to promote cultural aspects of deafness via cultural centres, seminars on deaf history, sign language tuition, films, arts, often using Paddy Ladd e.g. whose sourced the whole thing in a language/format deaf still cannot follow even today, but next to nothing in practical support to maintain the deaf person as regards to day to day living issues.
E.G. recent swinging cuts to welfare in the UK has left many deaf bereft of those allowances, or the financial means to buy it in, so demand cannot be created. 100s of 1,000s have lost welfare support overnight via re-vamped welfare forms only specialists can understand, and in formats deaf cannot, or won't follow. Obtaining advice on applications, ATR found none of the cultural or charitable areas dedicated to sign language and culture, have trained anyone to help the very people who sign, to get their entitlements.
Interpreters on the front line in assisting BSL users via applications for welfare, are saying they are overwhelmed, their workload is high anyway with basic day to day support, let alone having to assist all these deaf people to get their legal entitlements to welfare help. Calls from disability advice areas for their help cannot be met, not least because advice areas are charities and cannot pay for their services..
A major interpreter issue is the poor deaf literacy and awareness of the written word, too much emphasis is put on signed access without ensuring deaf can follow the quite technical and ambiguous forms they need to fill in properly. 75% could not understand very basic questions properly or how to respond to them in print, some unable to read written posts sent to them. Interpreters are saying there is too little emphasis on educating deaf and this makes their support for deaf people problematic, as very high standards are demanded of them, welfare claims become academic, and they will fail..
Deaf people insisting the want sign and sign only, but without the academic standards required to make it most effective for them, and then relying on Interpreters or family members (Who also do not understand the forms sent), to do that, and it is not working, as 1,000s of deaf are failing to get their legal entitlements and losing what they did have, pleas to dedicated signing support are getting nowhere, the staff are simply not there. The few pros there are, are charging deaf for their services, are scattered all over the country, but still in single figures.
Deaf culture needs to understand deaf people require front line support, not campaigns about the past. Hard facts they need to understand.
Culture is a luxury,
Literacy and support a direct necessity.
Culture won't pay your rent.
Culture won't get you a job.
Culture won't educate you
Only effective and diverse communication usage, and effective practical support will, at the every least, culture will just make you poor, unemployed, ignorant, illiterate, and more isolated.
The ultimate irony is as sign language access advances for the deaf, there is no-one to help the deaf utilise it. You cannot access a social worker to help you now, because none are sign trained, so you need yet another terp to access that. It all makes for more and more demands on a translation service already in meltdown.
That is just ONE area, out of 100s deaf need access to. What are deaf doing ? texting each other. In the question of priorities for deaf people, we need to downgrade culture as the main priority.
Starting day one in school to teach deaf to communicate more effectively with hearing, to put a number one priority on literacy, and to set up a continued program of further education after they leave school, as too many abandon educational attainment after school stops. 78% of deaf not having a job worth a shit, but, happy they are still within deaf culture and community. is just perverse.
Is the purpose of Deaf Culture to make martyrs of sign users ? So the able few, can remain big fish inside uneducated small ponds ?
When will deaf empower themselves ? They won't so long as deaf ignorance is bliss, and a proper education some sort of bonus as opposed to the norm. No matter how the view of deaf signing community prevails, they need to eat, they need to work, and they desperately need more abilities to communicate, and then to have a realistic aspiration, with the means to achieve it...
Using culture as a reason NOT to pursue these options is making for a pretty poor deal for deaf people. The price of culture, is too high, and pride is always followed by a dramatic FALL. We don't care about Milan, we want a job. Back to basics please.