EDUDEAF:  I'm not broken and I don't need to be fixed
Keyword:  Deaf Education Information, deaf related issues, deaf culture and history

Document 1 of 1
From: Richard Clark Eckert <rceckert@UMICH.EDU>
Subject:      Re: Deaf Culture not too friendly w/HoH? - CORRECTED
In-Reply-To:  <>
Return-Path: owner-deaf-l@SIU.EDU

Same old stuff as earliar today, but I was surely embarassed with all the
typos.  So this is the corrected version if you English competancy found
the previous one to be upsetting :)


On Mon, 22 Feb 1999, Richard Clark Eckert wrote:

> WAY WAY TOO TOO LONG!!!!!  But not a CI thing either - unusual I know!
> "I'm Not Broken and I Don't Need to be Fixed"
> I was considering Stephen White's apology for CI's and Omer's wonderful
> response when I noticed that Stephen alleged that Deaf culture was not too
> friendly to the HoH.  Hmmmmm while not relevant to the merit of CI's, the
> issue addressed separately I think is worthy of discussion.  After all, at
> least one hearing parent on this list has made claim that they went to a
> deaf club prior to deciding to get a CI for their child.  Appartently they
> did not perceive themselves as being welcome.  I am not about to contest
> what someone says was their perception of the experience, but I'd like to
> redirect the focus a little bit if I may.  This idea was actually inspired
> by the same very dear Deaf friend who suggested I share some of my
> positive experiences in becoming deaf ("Unwired from Noise" post).  Now
> my friend suggested that I describe how I perceived d/Deaf people prior
> to my becoming deaf.
> Well my experience is sort of mixed because I was diagnosed as HoH (I hate
> that term now) at age 4.  This meant that while attending school I would
> wait in line to have my ears tested by a nurse and then get some note
> pinned on me to go home so the folks would know.  So while not deaf, the
> stigmatization was certainly there, especially when seats are assigned
> alphabetically but --- because I had a mild hearing loss I was seated in
> the front.  This of course makes little practical sense since I would be
> spatially the farthest from students in the back of the room and would be
> less likely to hear them.  Apparently they only wanted me to hear the
> teachers.  So anyway, the entire class was socialized from the very
> begginning to not only see hearing loss as different, but as something
> abnormal and something that disrupts the order of things.  At the very
> least it was something to be pitied.  I'm sorry but your son has been
> diagnosed with a hearing loss.  Sort of like "I'm sorry to learn the
> hearing aids are no longer working for you." I certainly internalized the
> thought that something was wrong with me.  Fortunatley, I did not buy into
> that crap when the hearing aids stopped doing their job.
> At the same time, I could recall going home and making phone calls for
> mom.  Sometimes I didn't mind.  Other times I felt like if I wasn't
> whole, well she would have to be even less. Her hearing was much
> worse than mine. She must be more abnormal than me and more disruptive to
> the social order of things.  Well not entirely, efforts were made to
> accomodate society and to assimilate into the mainstream.  She had done
> it pretty darn good too - a college graduate when women and deaf hardly
> went to college no less.  Yet, when society could not be accomodated
> then the problem was always the person with the hearing loss.  If she
> was to be blamed for not hearing and to experience the anger of sales
> people, then surely I would have to learn to endure that cause my
> hearing would be the same later on.
> At no time in my childhood do I recal my having ever met a d/Deaf
> person, let alone one who signed or who was outside of my family.  Yet,
> I remember how thrilled I was when my mom got her first tty and when the
> hearing aid box she wore became bte models.  When she got a captioner on
> the TV I found even more pleasure even if Barney Miller and maybe the
> ABS News were the only things captioned then.  Still, I was 23 and had
> never met a d/Deaf person and surely didn't think of being HoH as being
> deaf.  Now (today) I wonder why HoH don't just call themselves deaf. Ok
> "mildly deaf".
> One day I was walking during lunch hour in downtown D.C. and I saw a
> bunch of people marching.  Not an unusual sight in DC, but these people
> had signs about Deaf Pride and Captioning.  Deaf Pride I couldn't relate
> to. Captioning I certainly could.  I had purchased a Sears TV with the
> captioning built in (only brand that carried them back then). So what the
> heck - I marched along with them.  Of course the people started signing to
> me and I had this really stupid look on my face.  I mean it was
> definitely like hey I am not one of you.  I need the captioning, but I
> am not deaf.  I am HoH or Hearing Impaired (yuk). They would turn and move
> on to signing with someone else.  By the time we arrived at CBS I was at
> the end of the line.  People were pointing at me and others were signing
> something that I presumed to be telling them that I was not deaf etc etc.
> Of course I presumed that I was being derogated  somehow.  Hell they
> could have been signing about the weather and I would have felt out of
> place.  I no longer enjoyed the privilege of the hearing majority.
> The interesting thing is that the next week I signed up for sign language
> at some Fairfax County Community class.  I wanted to learn.  That
> difference in power was not comfortable to me.  The wife agreed to go
> too. Can't say I picked up much, but certainly more than the ex.  She
> grew frustrated and quit the class.  Well gee who in the heck am I going
> to sign with.  The class was taught by a Deaf woman so I guess she was
> the first Deaf person I met more than once.  She also had a deaf voice
> which I thought was not far from my mom's voice.  But the ex was terrified
> of it for some reason.  I didn't understand her hearing view and I
> didn't understand the d/Deaf view.  But I did see myself as distinctly
> different from either.
> About a year later two beautiful women were directed to my office in the
> Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Not sure why, but the guard knew I had hearing
> aids and I guess presumed I knew sign language.  The one whose name was
> Marie (she pronounced it Maurie) asked if I had information on Deaf Native
> Americans.  I told her she'd have to call Public Information.  She asked
> if she could use my phone.  When lifting up the receiver she saw the
> amplifier.  Immediately she started signing to her friend.  What?  I
> thought to myself  - I just suggested to a deaf person to use the phone
> and she is using it!!!  No that can't happen.  I didn't know they were
> deaf.  She told me they went to Gally. I thought to myself deaf students
> who go to Gally cannot hear on the telephone as I assumed ALL who go to
> Gally were REALLY deaf.
[Added Note: My deafness would have been moderate to sever at that time]

> Anyway Marie invited me to a Barbeque at Gally.  I went but must
> have had the same stupid look on my face that I had at the CBS captioning
> protest.  If there was a line I would have trailed to the back of it.
> Yet, just as with the CBS thing I immediately sought to sign up for sign
> language as I  was getting real frustrated with the speech reading crap at
> GWU.
> So I talked my boss into having the BIA pay for my going to 2 weeks of
> sign language training at Gally.  Hahaha oh good grief why did I think a
> beginnners class at Gally would be a beginners class?  Very much
> frustrated - I thought I would meet more than one deaf person - and she
> was the teacher (woman named Dotty).  She actually flunked me. [no
> social promotion for me.]
> So I figured that was the wrong class - go to a class just on Saturday
> mornings.  I did this in 1983.  Some persoanl tragedies happened and
> although I finished the course I had no interest in anything.  Lots of
> hearing people in the class with some crazy expectation that I was suppose
> to be able to learn the class faster and better than them.  It amazes
> people when I tell them I lived in the Washington, D.C. area and did not
> meet deaf people to use even the little bit of sign that I had picked
> up.  The audiologists at GWU sure didn't direct me anywhere and I had no
> idea where to go.
> It would be several years later before I even heard of a deaf person
> again. I was living back on the rez, sometimes in the woods.  A guy at
> my rez was collecting donations so his son could get a CI. god I thought
> that was great and donated as much as I could.  Never met the kid but
> the important thing is that the idea of fixing deafness was still in my
> thoughts.  I had by then read "When the Mind Hears", but was sure Lane
> was describing a history of someone other than me and still not connect
> what CI's really are.

[five Years Later and with deafness now severe]

> At Central Michigan University (MA work) I did meet a girl who was deaf
> and in a wheel chair.  She was always sitting alone and I felt real sorry
> for her.  So I approached her with the same stupid look I had at the CBS
> Captioning protest thing.  I couldn't sign and I didn't think to write
> anything down.  I who had been through the trauma of speech reading
> lessons and knew they didn't work expected her to read my speech.  She
> must have thought I was a real jerk. Next time I saw her the campus cops
> were sitting with her and signing away.  I grew jealous not of her in
> particular, but I wanted to communicate and didn't know how.  So I
> tried to get into a sign language class at CMU only to discover it was a
> psychology class - haha.  Oh well.
> Then onto University of Michigan.  I was invited to a pizza party filled
> with Gally and RIT students there for the summer.  Oh geesh, I had that
> same stupid look as the CBS thing again.  I  hid in the corner and
> did not communicate with anyone.  Of course with all of the previous
> efforts of learning signing language I could pick out a guy signing "Why
> he here" pointing at me with a look of disgust.  So I wrote down
> "Because I was invited".  One of the other students then started to try
> to communicate a little and was surely frustrated by my lack of
> receptive skills, but some effort was made.
> I recall telling a person that I wanted to take sign again, but not in a
> class full of hearing people.  So the next summer a class was organized
> with I guess five HoH students and five or six Gally and RIT students.  It
> was the first class and only class I have been to with more than the
> teacher being deaf.  Sure made a big change in my life.  There were some
> more informal classes with deaf students teaching me in the next year,
> but it was more vocabularly building than it was conversational.
> The following summer my skills were still not up to speed.  Yet the Gally
> and RIT students were a treat to be around.  Somewhere along the line
> most of the stupid CBS look left me.  At the same time I started to see
> deaf as less and less in need of being fixed, less broken.  I became
> captivated by the beauty of the expressions.  I became grateful that
> people were extending themselves to me rather than my thinking I just
> deserve their attention.
> Still there was and is a ways to go.  Last fall I told Vocational Rehab I
> need signing and NOW.  No more bullshit.  I need to get to point where I
> can understand interpreters.  I was thinking occupationally and maybe
> communicate better with deaf students here (being on this list was also
> a major influence in that decision). Vocational Rehab, as much as
> I dislike those folks, assigned me a signing tutor as well as paid for the
> classes at a local community college (finish ASL III - which really
> amounts to just starting to get into ASL sentence structures -  this
> week btw).
> Anyway, the tutor invited me to a Deaf Thanksgiving dinner in the Fall and
> the stupid CBS look was there but seeing Deaf as people not something
> broken was there too.  My impressions were the language is so beautiful
> - and wanting to learn it even more.  Christmas party for the Deaf club
> was something else.  I had finished ASL II about that time.  People were
> friendly - BUT the big difference was the tutor introduced me to the
> people there.  Most people were willing to adjust to my signing skills or
> lack of and some conversation actually took place. Occassionally someone
> would be so expressive with the body language that I wondered what hearing
> friends would think if they saw me communicating like that - but that
> thought quickly went away as I was just enjoying myself too much.
> Near the end of the party people started paying less and less attention to
> me and were focusing on the goodbyes with those they've known for a long
> time.  I was able to figure out that I was not being ignored and was quite
> comfortable just watching.  But after the party about five people wanted
> me to join with them in some coffee and bull shitting about a few
> things. Seems very minor but it was huge.
> Then a month later a Deaf friend was in town for the weekend and I found
> myself signing all the time.  Wow what a delight!  On occassion parts of
> my personality would burst out.  Yet within two days of signing FULL
> TIME a really strange thing happened. A person started to talk (voice)
> to me and I started to respond in sign.  My thoughts had changed.
> So how do I connect the dots of this long winded post.  Well, first I was
> taught that deaf is lesser than hearing.  I was taught I am not hearing
> and I am not deaf, but somehow better than deaf.  I experienced that when
> the numbers were reversed I felt lesser - even if the people didn't treat
> me as lesser.  Most of the rest is frustration of wanting to communicate
> and when profoundly deaf needing to communicate.  But the beauty of being
> around d/Deaf and being deaf is new to me.  It is precious.  Still I think
> back to that very first hearing test in school and see how society is
> taught to see d/Deaf as failure.  To begin to be welcomed in the deaf
> community I had to throw out that CBS Captioning protest stupid look on
> my face.
> Sorry for the length.
> Richard C. Eckert
> Doctoral Candidate
> Department of Sociology
> University of Michigan