July 19, 2010

The Disability View

Dianrez left a comment under Candy's blog which spoke about the disability view vs. the cultural view:

Now: the MOST IMPORTANT REASON for the ethnic or cultural view: it opens up FAR MORE possibilities for moving on and growth than the disability view. The disability view is a medically limited one that affects a whole life’s self-view. The disability view can lead to psychological assumptions that limit the individual’s perception of self. The disability view can also lead to the entire community at large viewing the individual and the individual’s peers as a limited type of person. 

So, those who argue for the disability view of the d/Deaf community is arguing for a limited and limiting view. Those who argue for the ethnic or cultural view are arguing for a more developmental and hopeful view. 

Dianrez basically states that the disability view can be negative and damaging to the person with the disability, because the disability view focuses on what is lacking or what the person is not able to do. So, it is a limiting view in some aspects. The disability view focuses on how the person is different from or inferior to everyone who is 'typical' in the area they are disabled in. If one has an ethnic or cultural view they will have a more positive outlook. It focuses on what the person can do and how their 'disability' is a special trait; a difference, really.

However, I don't think the disability view is all that bad or should be. The disability view is about reality. The reality is that you are lacking a certain sensory that most people are not lacking. The reality is that this sensory loss can cause some problems in one's life, due to the fact that the world is not created for people with this sensory loss. You have to learn how to deal with this reality. One way is to find ways to help make up or regain some of the loss. For example, you may purchase hearing aids for your hearing loss or you may learn and teach others sign language as a way to ease communication barriers. Yes, the disability view is about focusing on your loss and what you are lacking. But the next logical step most people will take is how to deal with it.

For example, I have a middle school student who is moderately deaf, bilaterally. She wears two hearing aids. I spoke with her about her hearing loss and we looked at her audiogram. We spoke about the sounds she may have trouble hearing without her hearing aid. I told her that she will have the most trouble hearing certain speech sounds such as "s" "t" "sh" "f" and such. I did some informal exercises with her where I turned my back and said some words and sentences and asked her to repeat what I said. Then we did another exercise where I told her words and sentences facing her and making sure she was looking at me. At the end of our discussions about her hearing loss, she looked as if she had woken up from a long nap. She told me how she did not realize how she could not hear certain sounds. She told me about how she never really thought about her hearing loss. No one talked about it with her. People always told her that she was "fine" (she currently does very well academically). She talked about how no one really focused on her disability but on how she was "special." She was always told how great and talented she was. I told her that is true and that she is also super bright. I added, "But, the reality is, you can't hear as well as most people. Just like I don't hear as well as most people. We will never be hearing. We need to acknowledge it and find ways we would like to deal with it." She seemed interested in the topic and wanted to find out more about her hearing loss and ways she can deal with it. She became interested in learning about others with hearing losses. She even became interested in learning about sign language. Before, she was reluctant about learning sign language, because people seemed to make a big deal about how "special" she is and she did not want to add to her "specialness". Instead, she looked at the fact that she has a disability; a hearing loss, and sign language could be something that would help her or be of some interest to her. We talked about how important it is that she does not pretend to be hearing. We also talked about how it is okay to have a hearing loss. It is not the end of the world and it is not the only thing that defines us.

It is what it is.

I worked with an older student who was in complete denial of his hearing loss. He refused to wear hearing aids and use assistive technology (closed captions, assistive listening devices, etc.). After talking with him about his disability and telling him that it is a serious condition that must be dealt with he began to listen to me. After I conducted a bunch of informal hearing tests on him, he realized how much he was missing out or not hearing. He talked about how he thought that maybe he should just accept it for what it is and not worry about the supposed hearing loss everyone was saying he has. He looked at it as more of a part of him; a difference, not a disability. He said that he learned to adapt to it. He did not think it was a problem. The only times he thought he had trouble hearing was when people whispered or when he was in a noisy environment. He did not think that he was actually having trouble most of the times. I told him how I observed a friend who was right behind him asking him a question. He never responded and his friend rolled his eyes and walked away. He seemed surprised by this. I asked him, "Do you tell anyone that you have a hearing loss?" He said that he never does. Why would he if he did not think he has a hearing loss? I told him that he needs to first acknowledge that he has a disability; a mild hearing loss. He then needs to figure out how to deal with it. Will it be wearing hearing aids? Start telling others that he has a hearing loss (to avoid future awkward situations and misunderstandings)? Start being more aware of his surroundings? Stop pretending that he is hearing? 

I wish some people would stop tiptoeing around that fact that their child or student has a disability. Not talking about or acknowledging the fact that they have a disability isn't going to help. They need to acknowledge the fact that they have a disability and then explore ways that they can help themselves. However, I am not proposing that people need to focus solely on their disability. There is much more to the person than their disability. I just want people to talk about it in a realistic manner and point out the obvious.

I do believe that the cultural view is a view that must be shared with every deaf and hard of hearing individuals. I think it is important to have this type of outlook and option. The disability and cultural view can exist with one another.

But, do not disregard the disability view. It does not have to be this negative thing. It can be an important tool to use while on the road to self-discovery. 

Dianrez also commented:

Those who argue for the disability view are typically doctors, clinicians, audiologists, therapists and other professions who make their living off disabled people. They do good, but are necessarily limited by the limits of their science and technology. The semanticist and the lawyer may do so also. They have their place, but do not, and should not, ever impose the disability view upon the whole person. Neither should a person ever accept a disability framework for his life. Such fixed assumptions are dangerous and corrosive to human potential.

I totally disagree. The disability view is about facing reality. It is not limiting, it is the truth. The reality is, I will never hear certain high frequency sounds and my left ear is profoundly deaf in most frequencies. This was all explained to me by one of my audiologists. He was very helpful in explaining to me what my hearing loss means. His intention was not to harm me or make me feel inferior. He simply told me what I can and cannot hear. His disability view proved to be very helpful for me in that I am more aware about how to help myself. I understand how my hearing aid helps with my hearing and I am much more appreciative of it with this understanding.

So, don't look at the disability view or the medical view only as something bad. It can be a good thing too. 



  1. That's a way to see it.

    Well-written blog. It's a matter of being willing to make the best of our limitations, change the limitations to the potentials.


  2. Sadly, those who think that person is special is really looking at that person from a medical view. They have a low expectation from her of what she can and can not do.

    I don't mind medical views of deafness, as long as it is positive. Like focusing on what we need such as social needs (closed captioning is one example). I don't like the negative side of medical views - like we are unable to raise our children, learn like hearing kids despite our communication differences unless we have a lot of hearing, and many more.

    anyway, the culture is there and many people, both deaf and hearing, have been shaped by that visual culture. And have been for many generation.

  3. btw, a deaf person should never pretend they are hearing. otherwise, hearing people will think they are rude.

    Personally, I don't really care if something tried to ask me a question and walked off because I didn't hear. That's their problem, not mine. They do this even if I had my hearing with CI or HA so that's why I don't really care.

  4. Please look at yesdeafcan.com website. It is dedicated to all deaf individuals who are striving to succeed in their professional goals and ambitions.It would be nice if you could post your profile. It will help other deaf people to become motivated and inspired by your achievements.

  5. Thanks, I'll check out that website, yesdeafcan.com. :)


  6. Love it.... because I wish I had been more proactive with taking advantage of the help that was provided to me... but by that time, I was able to speak up for myself and I had a "big head" to be honest with you. I did great in school, dance, organizations, etc... so I thought I could tackle the world because I was always told I did great. However, when the real world hit me... little did I know how much harder it is out on your own. I'm "all in" for educating yourself on your disability so you have the tools needed to reach for the best. So I agree, addressing, facing, and understanding your disability can play to your advantage so that you have more choices and a variety of ways to handle obstacles. It definitely isn't limiting!

  7. nice post & good blog, i think u must try this site to increase traffic. have a nice day !!!

  8. You've raised really good points which I agree (e

    Although, I remember my Mum telling me that when they found out I was deaf from birth, the doctor told her I would never be able to hear and speak just because I was profoundly deaf. Mum didn't want to accept that so I guess I can kind of understand what Dianrez meant with doctors making assumptions. Although I don't think this is the case today as the times/attitudes are different. With technology and communication evolving over time quite drastically, it is possible to reap those benefits in order to not be so limited by your deafness. I do see it as a disability because I do have limitations, but as mentioned before, with technology evolving and with confidence, you can gradually overcome these limitations in a different way. Exactly what Karen says - "Change the limitations to the potentials."

    On the other hand, a cultural view of deafness may perhaps give more awareness in the society e.g. in Australia, they are advocating for more open captions in cinemas so I guess it is the cultural view that allows the push for more resources or facilities to accommodate that in the society? It's a good way to educate people too.

    Either way, deafness as a disability or cultural shouldn't be viewed negatively.


Keep it civil.