I came home from school early today and began searching through Iplayer for something interesting to watch. I wanted something with sign language as my subtitles had been playing up - searching through I noticed the documentary everyones been talking about: Rita Simmons - My daughter, Deafness and Me. I thought I'd give it a go and try to approach it with an open mind.
After 50 minutes I wasn't quite sure what to think to be honest. I'd seen things that confused me, that made me angry and some things I very much agreed with.
I'll save you from my thoughts on every minor detail and stick to one or two major things.
My first point may start off sounding positive but belive me I'm not impressed. I've noticed recently that there has been an increase in programmes with a "Deaf" theme. On the surface this is a brilliant thing! I'm always up for a bit of low key deaf awareness raising but lets face it, neither this programme or Deaf Teen: Hearing World have successfully managed to raise deaf awareness. They've been talked about yes, but only within the Deaf community. Ask a hearing person, even on of my friends about the programmes and the response you'll get is a blank look of non-recognition...
Like I previously said when I wrote about Deaf Teens here was a unique opportunity to truly engage the "hearing world" and put our view across. Show people that Deaf people are not dumb, or stupid - we can achieve as much, if not more, than your average hearing person.
From what I've seen Rita Simmon's lasting impression of the Deaf community will be that they believe she's abusing her child if she arranges for her to have a cochlear implant. Is this really the impression we want to leave people with? I think not...
There was no acknowledgment in the programme by Rita or by the proffessionals surrounding her that all deaf children are different. Not all of them have good speech like Rita's daughter does. Not all of them are deaf for the same reason. Each child is unique, an individual with their own needs and ways of communication.
The second time I felt like running to a shed to find an axe was when Rita comments that her deaf daughter who will one day become profoundly deaf does not need Deaf people, their community or language. Well I'm sorry, but who are you to make that decision for your daughter? Why not give her the opportunity to meet other deaf young people, to learn to sign and to interact in an environment where she won't feel as frustrated as she clearly at times is. I can see where Rita is coming from as a hearing person - but really she needs to think about her daughter and the opportunities she deserves.
The same could be said of her decision about cochlear implants; Rita is convinced that this is the way forward for her daughter in the future. Well maybe it is. But Rita's enthusiasm for implants seems to be because she sees them as the "cure for deafness". She cannot understand why some deaf people would willingly choice to not have sound. I have to say that to me this shows a profound lack of understainding of the issues around cochlear implants; a lack of understanding of the sense of Deaf community tied in with sign language; and a belief that with a cochlear implant her daughter will be hearing - like the rest of her family. Well I'm sorry. But she won't be...
I could rant on for hours more about the programme but I won't. I thought it showcased some interesting differences of opinion; and in the end my major qualm is with the missed opportunities for highlighting the difficulties facing deaf children and young people. A valuable opportunity missed, ah well.