By: Mariam Janvelyan
Picture the following hypothetical scenario: one evening, a patrolman pulls over a Deaf man. The man’s license specifies that he is Deaf. He even has a notice on his door indicating that the person driving the vehicle is Deaf. Expecting to be asked for his license and registration, he rolls down the window. Should the officer:
a) Strike him in the face — multiple times.
b) Refuse to provide him with an interpreter during the booking, hospital, and jail time?
c) Yell and continue to strike the driver because he does not respond to their yells?
Are you disgusted yet? What if I told you the scenario wasn’t hypothetical? What if I told you a Deaf man in Oklahoma was beaten for 7 minutes because he didn’t respond to the officers. Aside from the obvious degrading, brutal and horrific treatment of another human being, he was also denied another one of his fundamental human rights: the right to language. His right to accessibility was stolen from him.
This seems to be a common theme in the Deaf world. From something as simple as captioning a program, to something as crucial as providing an interpreter, the oppression that has followed Deaf people throughout history rears its ugly head daily in the form of limited access. No child should have to stand in a hospital room and convey a life threatening illness to their parent because the staff couldn’t be bothered to hire an interpreter. No human being should have to struggle through the fear and confusion of a situation such as an arrest, because their rights weren’t conveyed to them in their native language. Hearing children are encouraged to sign, while Deaf children are banned from even the smallest of gestures, forced to memorize tongue placements and diaphragm movements to produce sounds they themselves cannot hear.
Language impairments. Cognitive delays. Depression. Anger. Mistrust. Just a few of the critical side effects of the ignorant world’s oppression of the Deaf. Accessibility is the first step to combating these issues. Every human being has the right to language, and no other human being has the right to take that away.
This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.