May 12, 2010

Dealing With Ignorant 'Hearies'

The next time you ostracize or attack a hearing person for being ignorant, consider this. I met quite a few people in their 60s and above who have never met or experienced a signing deaf person first hand. Maybe their only experience with Deaf culture or deaf people are from the one or two times they are shown on television or in the movies. Maybe they have seen deaf people in various places from a far. Or maybe they have encountered only deaf peddlers trying to sell their sign language cards, unfortunately. For most hearing people, encounters with deaf people are extremely rare.

So how are they suppose to know that you are not supposed to use the term 'hearing-impaired'? How are they supposed to know that some deaf people have good speech?  That sign language is in fact a language? That not all deaf people can lip read? And yes, that deaf people can drive?

Sure, getting asked 'stupid' questions can be annoying. But, it is good to be asked. This is your chance to educate in a positive light. Do not scowl, roll your eyes, or laugh. And please, do not cry, "Audism!"

Take the time to spread awareness. Don't attack the person asking the question. Don't cower in online Deaf forums making fun of hearing people; making unnecessary cruel jokes about 'stupid hearies'.

Until we see more deaf and hard of hearing people and deaf awareness in the media and the general public, we have to deal with ignorant comments and questions from hearing people.

By the way, I have heard and read plenty of deaf people asking ignorant questions about other people with other disabilities (such as little people, people with visual impairments, people who use wheelchairs, people with intellectual disabilities, etc.). Their questions are very similar to the questions deaf people get asked.

Think about it. Do you really know everything there is about everyone else in the world who are not deaf?

We are all ignorant about a lot of things.



  1. Awesome vlog. I'll be the first to acknowledge that I don't know much about other disabilities therefore I'm sure I've asked some of the ignorant questions. And because I asked I usually learn immensely. Thanks for reminding us.

  2. I suspect that being a teacher has taught you more patience with ignorance. I try to be patient with ignorance, but I draw thw line at "deaf & dumb". You'd have to be over 100 years old to remember a time when *that* was acceptable!


  3. Many older people (Certainly a number of my peers !), have set view on what deaf people are about. You need to remember (Here in the UK anyway), that up until the 1970s deaf were viewed as mentally handicapped and were from institutions, they left school worked in sheltered areas, socialised only with each other, the divisions were huge and all re-enforced the belief.

    Which they viewed as, deaf went to deaf schools because there was no consideration the deaf could be taught in mainstream, the lack of speech some exhibited and the face-pulling/signing was further indication of mental problems to the untrained eye and experience. Near every term used for deaf (Or disabled people), is based on poor mental health not on very obvious disabilities.

    That is only 40 years ago, so older people have had 20-30 years of their upbringing believing that, and got even more ignorance heaped on them by their parents. You need also to understand that trying to learn or understand sign communication is not an option for older people, who find things harder to learn as they get older, so the reflex action is to shun deaf, shun what they don't understand, avoid the issue entirely, I think it isn't so much ignorance via discrimination but upbringing..

  4. deaf & dumb doesn't bother me as a deaf person. It's from the bible. What's bother me is that people use these label to insult other hearing people and deaf people. AS IF IS the most degrading, worst thing can happen to a person. Or the lowest of the low.

  5. Thanks so much for writing this. Though stupid statements occasionally bother me, like you I have learned that being deaf is a perfect opportunity to educate rather than flip out.

  6. Moot point Anonymous, it is about CONTEXT. It isn't what you say, but how you say it.


Keep it civil.