What’s audism? It looks like I misspelled autism, but I didn’t. In short, audism is a negative attitude – or an opressive one – towards Deaf people by deaf or hearing people and/or agencies or organizations through failure to accommodate them.
I remember years ago, in social work school, being aghast that a social work professor there forced his totally deaf child to be oral. He mainstreamed his son and totally isolated his child from the Deaf community. That, to my mind, is full-blown audism. There are lesser forms. For instance, refusal or failure to use sign in the presence of a sign-language speaker is audism – assuming you know how to use it, of course.
There is a belief the mainstream of society holds that all persons should be able to walk, talk, see, and hear – among other things – in order to be “normal” or “able bodied”. Anything less is a disability.
In particular, members of the Deaf community are largely happy with themselves. Yes, life is a little more difficult when you have a hearing impairment, but (as my blind ex pointed out to me) it is a condition and not a disease the deaf will die from.
To those who have been deaf from birth, it is impossible to imagine what sound is, how it carries, and exactly why it is so important. And, frankly, to some folks (like me) sound can be more of a hindrance than a help (at times) – and yes, I do enjoy sounds … at least some of them … when I am in control of the situation. I’m in control of darn little when it comes to sound, though.
One of the only communities I know to have formed around a “disability” is the Deaf Community. They share a language and a similar culture. I know that anthropologically it isn’t “really” a culture, but we can save that argument for another day.
I can understand the horror of Deaf parents who are told to implant their deaf children with Cochlear Implants (CIs) . This is an indication to them that they are somehow lacking something – that their children are lacking something. Which – actually – they are, that being hearing.
However, one can live a full and robust life without hearing. I hear the arguments that it is far easier to have a child introduced to a CI than waiting for them to make that choice as adults. At the same time, I’m all too aware that this is a surgery with all the risks of any surgery in terms of dying from anesthetic or developing other problems as a result. It does involve boring into the skull. There are deaths from bacterial meningitis that have been attributed to the CI. The last I heard there were about 17 in total. We hear 17 and think, that’s a small number. Which it is, unless you are one of the parents who lost a child because of it.
It is far more common for hearing parents to get CIs for their children because they want their children to participate fully in the hearing world. However, my impression is that they linger in the world of the Hard of Hearing (HoH). They are neither fish nor fowl – not fully hearing and not fully Deaf. I know folks with CIs and I wear a Hearing Aid and I’m not against any of it. I might even consider a CI at some point – maybe. But I do think that we should stop and think about how important it is to attempt to impose our values – against or for CIs – on others. Certainly, when kids grow up they have the right to get a CI even if their extended family is part of the Deaf Community.
Gallaudet University has a FAQ on Audism I’d like to recommend. (Click Here for FAQ)