We, as Deaf people, do not see ourselves as disabled. The disability we do have is a communicative disability. This affects our communication intake and output in situations where we’re among nonsigners or have no access to interpreters or captioning.
We see ourselves as “differently-abled.” Deafblind people, for example, can be educated, earn advanced degrees, and become part of society.
A good number of Deaf people have an additional life-altering disability—cerebral palsy, arthritis, epilepsy, autism spectrum. And the Deaf community also includes a number of people who have Usher Syndrome, a congenital, progressive form of Deafblindness, who are living and coping with various degrees of blindness and low vision. Some Deaf people use wheelchairs. Some Deaf people have Down Syndrome and other cognitive disabilities.
We have been told that Deaf people with full health tend to treat Deaf people with CP with contempt. We do not condone or tolerate this kind of bigotry in our community.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is problematic, as it’s weak. It hasn’t provided major benefits to the Deaf community as it has to physically-disabled people. If the basic premise of the ADA is to integrate disabled persons into the mainstream, how does that benefit us? Does integration and inclusion benefit us when the only mode of communication is speech, PA systems, and amplification? We need something better than access to the auditorium. We need visual access, and the ADA doesn’t take this into account.
The independent-living movement believes that all deaf people should be mainstreamed. We disagree. We insist on having our own linguistic community and fully-accessible facilities (Apache ASL Trails in Tempe, Arizona comes to mind). We are already a part of society. We want to maintain our own spaces, and we want our needs and desires as Deaf people respected.
We believe in establishing a positive connection with the Disability Rights Movement. The Deaf community shares many experiences with DR advocates—exclusion, discrimination, the ongoing campaign against ignorance and bigotry. We will work with DR activists to serve the needs of Deaf-plus people.
We affirm the innate worth of Deaf-plus people—those who are Deaf and who have physical or cognitive disabilities. We seek to establish a positive connection with the Disability Rights Movement.