Skip navigation

Tag Archives: deafness

The term handicap has become a thorn in the side of the English language.  It is one of the words most associated with the argument of political correctness. So what is a handicap?

I read on CNN’s Young People Who Rock about a young fellow, Sean Forbes, who performs music videos with American Sign Language for the Deaf Community. He is an inspiration to the Deaf Community and he brings to them a piece of the world most people never expected they could have. Below the passage there are a number of comments flaming the mention of deafness as a disability [handicap]. In my mind a handicap is something that significantly alters the way a person experiences society. The Deaf Community is indeed a culture. ASL is the third most used language in the United States. But it is impossible to say that when outside of the Deaf Community communicating can be a struggle. I have taken a course in ASL, but having not actually sought out situations to use it, I have only used it once in the four years since I first started. People who have speaking difficulties are often considered to have disabilities or handicaps, but it merely a communication barrier. Perhaps that is why deafness is not considered a handicap because it is a communication barrier similar to the growing English-Spanish barrier. But then speaking difficulties should not be disabilities.

It is impossible to toss around the word handicap or disability without making someone angry. It is almost as if the terms themselves make people lesser than others. They are social categorizations similar to race. Ultimately, I must agree that deafness is not a handicap, but such a term can only be defined in the eye of the beholder. If I went to Russia could not someone say I am handicapped?

Advertisements

As a volunteer at a hospital’s pediatric emergency room, I read books to children and gave some books away to the younger children as a part of a program. I basically had the responsibility to enter the rooms on my own when doctors and nurses were not perfoming their duties. One evening, I came into a room to give a boy a book. Two men were in the room as well, one I assume was the boy’s father. Each of them were deaf. Thankfully I took an American Sign Language course in high school, although the importance of those lessons didn’t sink in until now. I probably looked completely shocked while I shaped my hand and arms to ask “he want b-o-o-k?” I knew the sign for want, but not book so I spelled that out. The guy gave me a thumbs up. I hope that meant good job, or at the very least ok he can have a book. Unfortunately I didn’t have the same success when confronted with Spanish. I would advise anyone working in a hospital to learn as much about communication as possible.