Monday, 25 February 2019

Role Modelling a dated concept?

Image result for role modelsWe often read online the many concerns deaf schools are in a distinct downward direction and young deaf are losing role models.  But what IS a deaf role model?  Or the Deaf one? or even a model image for other areas with hearing loss.  

USA deaf were quoting Helen Keller who was deaf-blind, not a definitive 'Deaf ASL' role model.  Beethoven, who certainly never signed at all.  More modern signing icons are 'pop stars' and dancers, actors etc.  The type of jobs reserved for the few extroverts.  Near all the role models had ways of adapting without sign use too.  They don't appear in media with a terp in tow.

UK role models e.g. included Jack Ashley a CI using deaf MP, and Evelyn Glennie who is not known to be a sign user but a very good lip-reader of world musical renown.  There are hardly any sign using deaf who have attained similar status excepting Doug Alker who attained CEO status at the UK's largest Hard of Hearing charity,  a first for a BSL user, but was unable to display he was inclusive.  It was claimed his deaf school and community sign-based background left him without the tools to do it.   Unable to equate with people who could not sign like he did.  HoH felt excluded by him.

ASL people in the USA continue to attack A G Bell because he promoted oralism, there is little mutual acceptance going on. Live and let live, has been replaced by you do your thing I will do mine. The 'D' suggesting division, masked as a 'choice' or a right.  Modern role models on TV/The arts usually need to display more communication skills than BSL, having that ability to adapt was/is essential.  Others who stay with the BSL couldn't show flexibility, and inhabit such areas as an 'example of token inclusion' showing a signing deaf person (Quite wrongly we aren't all like that), and uncomfortably, as people reliant on others while giving out lectures 'This is what Deaf do.' or rather what most of us did not.

Most unhappy the old ways are going, need to understand what they are asking for, is it a 'back to the future' system? based on the old concepts that led to the demise of deaf clubs and schools?   They weren't actually 'good old days' in terms of academic achievement, and were institutionalising deaf people.   There aren't enough of them to fill a class in many areas and parents wanted them with own friends and hearing siblings, and local, not many miles away in some remote boarding school where they can lose family cohesion and communication approaches are different and alienating. 

The system had found that whilst the deaf loved these areas it was barely conducive to getting a start in life to work and live amidst people not the same as they were or, even equate with deaf who didn't use the same formats they did.  Specialised education isolates and still does,  80% of deaf do not need that specialised type of education, that is not to stay they don't need that support in the mainstream they do. Annexe's we feel are a half-hearted cheap-skate measure, and token inclusion.  Pupils there too, go straight to their own as adults unable to mix.

Mainstreaming has its critics, ATR agrees with a lot of them, what we need to take into account is that it wasn't planned properly with the right back up in place and the issue or sole signing approaches not addressed in respect of the realities in adulthood.   They are falling out of academic advances as we write and has less and less in-class support is there as we write.  If that isn't addressed the future for young deaf is bleak indeed.   

What isn't agreed are the formats to offer deaf children their best hope of advancement as pro-culture and pro-inclusive education areas aren't in agreement.  It's time education was put first.

Closing the deaf schools to attempt integrating the deaf was done without ensuring the support was there.   Deaf had been accustomed to living in an 24/7 supported environment where all peers signed (Or struggled), the same as them, thus deaf emerging into a predominantly hearing world and struggling with that too.  Such deaf are then prior candidates for resenting hearing people and inclusion without back up, it was inevitable they would want back to the old ways, where at least a lack of education was acceptable so long as the community continued to thrive. 

Does BSL kill speech and isolate deaf people? NO it doesn't, but deaf who prefer to sign prefer mostly not to speak, giving that impression, and keeps the myth a visual/oral reality.  More deaf speak than sign, more are now adopting CI's and addressing mainstream more positively.  The fact an increasing majority do not attend what deaf clubs or schools that still exist, may be choice too, unhappy as it makes people like the BDA.  As regards to young deaf they dropped out of deaf clubs 25+ years ago, they wanted independence from attending clubs where older people and aged deaf were predominant, they wanted the same as hearing were getting.  This is an absolute norm for all youth. We should all be happy today's youth have more choices. For people to state, it isn't a real choice is unhelpful. 

As with all forms of hearing loss, db limitations are not the primary issue, confidence is, and you don't gain confidence by staying apart from the rest of society and making occasional 'visits' to them.  It need not isolate the deaf if the inclusive process is entered into in the spirit of making it a real success, and not an annoyance until they can leave school and seek out others like them instead, because they were primed to fail, it creates resentful and disadvantaged people. It is not essential even hearing must sign first, just display a willingness for them to adapt too.  They cannot integrate by remote, they have to be 'in it, to win it'. Demanding inclusion from the relative 'sanctuary/buffer' of the deaf school/club/community, it won't work, the hearing will see that, not any real desire behind it.  Deaf will see they don't get demand made on them and stay where they are too.

Role modelling seems to be a very singular-centric image within some areas and doesn't reflect inclusion at all.  The world is hearing it isn't deaf and many young deaf desire the same as their hearing peer, they know the sign is only part access to attaining that.  Mainstreaming gives them an experience they cannot ever attain within their community alone. That means sitting alongside hearing peers, being seen by them and socialising with them too. 

If hearing see that 'Deaf' prefer to be with 'their own' they are going to leave them to it, and deaf will suffer lack of education, acceptance, and progress, because of that desire.  Social attitudes need to be widened, there is more to life than being only with other deaf people, and there are many examples where deaf who never attended a deaf school or a club still manage to live their lives just the same, and they certainly won't relate to being inhibited again.  We know sign is a right but practicalities exist to be addressed, the world isn't going to sign for them. 60% cannot get a job, reality has to be faced, and changes made to deaf education in the light of that.  Hearing children are taught skills they know are needed when they leave school, this does not seem to be the same approach used in deaf educational areas.  

Recent work surveys show us that employers don't want the hassle a deaf signer exhibits, or the costs that go with it, they are convinced we are a liability.   Yes we can and do go at them but deaf are not showing adaptability where they can and complaining hearing peers don't sign like they do. they don't believe any onus is on them to go half-way.  Their own support is killing their advance.  Employers don't want 3rd parties.  3rd parties exist because deaf using sign have few other strings to their bow, indeed demand they shouldn't have to acquire any.    Everything then becomes a confrontation and stress situation. Pride has meant a huge fall in advancing their adult lives.  We don't say all deaf can adapt but the view they should not be trying to prevails, and that is very bad news indeed.

The ability of deaf being able to adapt to work situations is questionable too, yet, constant change and adapting is how it all works job-wise, constant re-training and learning new skills.  Deaf seem to avoid most of that or cannot get into it.  Result they are left behind further still.  The issue with role modelling is they can fail to relate to those who don't sign or don't attend such clubs and schools and/or who struggle to communicate with other deaf, hearing, deaf-blind, oral deaf, or hard of hearing, lip-readers etc.  Role modelling has to move to the 21stc. Most deaf youth already have, you are not going to find them in a 'community'  demanding deaf schools or clubs back, they have already voted with their feet. They have options older deaf don't.    By all means, empower deaf in education but address why that education is not empowering them as it should be doing.

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