I should admit that I did sit down the day after watching Deaf Teens: Hearing World and make some attempt at writing a passable bloggish comment about the programme. But then, stupidly, I went away and read all the fantastic blogs discussing the programme and realised I had yet to write anything original about it...
Now time has passed however, and more of my "hearing" friends have been *forced* to watch I do have some deaf-teen comments of my own to make...
Having watched Deaf Teens: Hearing World from a deaf perspective all I could see was how wonderful the deafies had been; how I too felt "proud to be deaf"; and how awful the hearing people had come across... the nurse, the note taker and the "my chicken is ill" excuse... Need I go on?!
So I was shocked when my best "hearing" friend came in to school on Thursday morning with the comment: "I think the deaf people in that programme cut off their nose just to spite their face..."
It was one of those moments where someone says something and everything just goes silent... Like in old films when tumble-weed just floats past.
With everyone around us looking on I asked her what she meant, and this is (roughly) what she said.
"The two deaf teens in the programme (Sarah and Asher) refused to talk, they refused to wear hearing aids or have cochlear implants. They just signed and lived in their own little world and expected everyone else to support them when they didnt make the effort. Maybe with a cochlear implant that girl might not have needed a note taker or interpreter! And that other girl at Mary Hare, she didnt want to wear her hearing aids, I can't understand why!"What ensued was a rather long argument about deaf community and how she as a "hearing person" could not understand what it was like to grow up in a Deaf family with Deaf friends etc. How sound is overrated and deafness is amazing...
But what interested me the most was her later comment:
"The girl who had the cochlear implant was all right! She wanted to hear and fit into the normal world, and look what it did for her! Now she can hear and she's just like a hearing person, she doesn't have to be deaf anymore. Don't understand why you and your friends are some against them!"My first reaction was just Ouch.
Looking back on Deaf Teens: Hearing World I can totally understand how my friend has jumped to the conclusion that cochlear implants are a magic cure for all deafness and why she can't understand why everyone wouldn't want one. She has no clue about different types or levels of deafness or about situations where implants may not be appropriate.
The way implants were portrayed by the makers of the documentary glossed over the years of hard work most people have to put in so that they can hear with an implant, side-stepped the risks of the operation and in my opinion didn't really go out of the way to show case the views of some members of the Deaf community and the valid reasons why they are so against implants. They were shown as "the magic cure for deafness"!
I personally believe that Deaf community is a fairly exclusive club... But it needs to be preserved! In a world where less and less parents are choosing sign before speech for their deaf child we run the risk of losing sign language as a native language completely. The dawn of cochlear implants means that many deaf children who would have grown up signers now grow up integrated into maintream hearing schools and possibly never knowing a single sign... Deaf community, and its language, needs to remain strong; if only because it provides the most amazing support network possible for deaf teens growing up in a mainstream hearing world.
So yes, Deaf Teens: Hearing World made me happy and proud to be deaf. It made me laugh and it made me cry (oh god how will i survive at university?!)...
But in the long run my honest opinion is I'm not sure how much it helped the deaf world.
Here was a unique opportunity to raise all manner of issues affecting the Deaf community! To teach some deaf awareness to these somewhat ignorant hearing people, so that the next time they meet a deaf person they don't just dismiss us as stupid or impossible to communicate with. To show that deaf people can achieve anything they want and more importantly that they can achieve as much, and more! than hearing people.
But it didn't do that... And I think that's a great shame.