Can you imagine living life without being able to hear the ones surrounding you?
Now can you imagine receiving little help with your handicap?
“Audism: Understanding its Meaning and Implications in the Deaf Community” was presented last night in the LLC Performance Hall to explore hearing-based discrimination in the deaf community. Included in the discussion was a panel of people from the deaf community, and a documentary made by students from Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf located in Washington, D.C.
Audism was coined in 1975 by Tom Humphries, a professor at Gallaudet University. Although it has been around for more than three decades, most people aren’t familiar with the term. Although there are many defined terms to classify types of discrimination, such as sexism and racism, the term “audism” has not made its way into Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The term is defined as the notion that one is superior based on one’s ability to hear. The deaf community is posing a case that it has a legitimate argument in which members are discriminated against for their hearing impairment.
Heidi Corce, a contributor of the panel, teaches a sign-language class including deaf students. The classroom is a signing environment, meaning it is respectful to use American Sign Language.
“Some (students) sit in the back of the class and talk,” Corce said. “Is that audism? That’s my question.”
Peter Quint, also an American Sign Language teacher at the University, has had similar experiences and answers her question.
“They try to sign for a little, but then they give up and just talk,” Quint said. “That’s audism.”
Quint also spoke of a time he went to fix his cochlear implant, asking rhetorically why people couldn’t just learn sign language instead.
Many panelists expressed that people in the deaf community feels as if they aren’t accepted as a disability and seen as something that needs to be fixed.
“There is a limit, there is a line, there is a boundary,” Corce said about the efforts between fixing and accepting their disability.
The Gallaudet University documentary argued that audism has had a long history, citing how deaf people were involuntarily sterilized and brought to religious shrines to rid them of their impairment. Although there are stories from the past, some members of the panel have experienced inferiority in their lifetimes.
Linda Morton, a member of the panel, explained that she wasn’t allowed to sign when growing up and was punished in grade school by being slapped on the hand for doing so. She was fortunate to attend Gallaudet University, where she learned to sign for the first time. Although ASL is now widely accepted, the deaf community has had new challenges with the advancement of technology.
“Communication isn’t instant and it’s frustrating,” said Roger Goth, another panelist.
For many it is hard to communicate via cell phone with friends or family members because it requires a TTY, a teletypewriter. The panelists at the event said that the deaf community hopes the event helped spread the word about audism and made others aware of the experiences they’ve faced with their disability, and the efforts to get “audism” in the dictionary and legally recognized.