We The Deaf People

1. Alexander Graham Bell Association

The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing was founded by Alexander Graham Bell in 1890 as the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf. Its original goal was to have articulation—speech training—classes set up in all schools for the deaf, and in this, the Association succeeded, and then some. During its early years, it was not unalterably opposed to sign language being taught to deaf children, but it gradually took on the rigorous anti-ASL, oral-only view it now embraces.

We are fully aware of AGBell’s long history of promulgating misinformation to parents of deaf children, its long history of deception and lies. We disagree with its claim that oralism benefits all deaf children, with its denigration of ASL as harmful to deaf children, and its aggressive promotion of cochlear implants and Auditory-Verbal Therapy, deceptively and confusingly rebranded as “Listening and Spoken Language” when it is not a language at all, just high-tech oralism.

We disagree with AGBell’s publicizing and parading of a few oral-auditory superstars as the norm. These children do not represent the norm but the exception. We also disagree with AGBell’s implication that well-to-do hearing people—audiologists, speech-language pathologists, oral administrators, advocates, and uneducated parents—know what’s best for deaf people. We disagree with its claim that ASL speakers represent a tiny number when, in fact, ASL is the third most-popular foreign language taught and studied on the high-school and college level. We disagree with its claim that ASL is a dying language, headed for extinction as the population of signers ages and dies out. We disagree with its argument that the bitter experiences of Deaf people in oral and mainstream settings, and schools for the deaf where ASL has been traditionally suppressed are no longer relevant, that technology renders their concerns obsolete. We oppose AGBell’s efforts to suppress, minimize, and denigrate the Deaf community, to silence it, to render it invisible and irrelevant.

We disagree with AGBell’s longstanding refusal to listen to the Deaf community, to acknowledge the many failures of the approach it endorses, to take responsibility for the disastrous effect its advocacy has had on the lives of Deaf people and their families. AGBell has steadfastly denied its failures, and uses tactics of silence and censorship in its controlled media to prevent the open discussion of this reality.

When AGBell establishes honest dialogue with the Deaf community—a dialogue that Deaf leaders have repeatedly requested, only to be met with silence—and begins to listen to the stories of pain and isolation told by many of its alumni, to open itself up to the truth, to cease spreading misinformation about ASL and the Deaf community, and to recognize its destructive impact, we will accordingly change our position. Until then, we remain steadfast in our opposition to everything AGBell represents.

Our position:

We stand in solidarity with AGBell alumni who have joined the Deaf community. We reject AGBell’s philosophy, its rejection of ASL and the reality of Deaf people. We oppose AGBell’s campaign of deception and monolingualism. And we will continue to combat AGBell’s activism with our own activism.