The Gallaudet Syndrome, Part I

I am boosting the signal on this set of articles which I think serves as an excellent introduction into issues of concern to the Deaf and deaf communities. They are in both ASL and written English. (Note that I myself did not attend Gallaudet: I am a born deaf person educated in oral methods and only recently becoming familiar with ASL, deafhood, and Deaf culture. Nevertheless, the audism described here is very familiar to me.) Note that the English article is not a transcript but more of a summary of the ASL video.

[Audio: none; Captioning: none; Language: ASL]

The Gallaudet Syndrome

“Gallaudet Syndrome” ideology is a shared set of rehabilitative beliefs that deaf equals hardship, that deaf people have limited choices, that near-perfect fluency in spoken English automatically renders a person superior, and that it is the hearing person’s duty to benevolently prepare deaf people to. . .to what? To work only within deaf related fields with no prospects of contributing to humanity as a whole?

And in those beliefs, several truths become apparent: that deaf people are inferior, that deaf people should settle for limited options, that “the hearing world” does not tolerate the burden of deaf people well and as such we should learn to walk softly within their world, that everyone has the right to their own communication preferences as long as it does not offend hearing people, that asking for ASL is a rejection of hearing ways of being, that it is reasonable that any deaf person on campus has very limited access to the administration, to the Board, to the cafeteria workers, to certain department chairs, and even, to professors by way of the fact that those non-signers need to “sacrifice” the time to secure an interpreter, that students do not have the right to intellectual and independent thinking and should not question or “talk back” to professors who are really more like authoritarian parents than professors, that it is no big deal that there is a robust network at Gallaudet centered around hearing privileges (Tuccoli, 2008) that deaf people have absolutely no access to. . .

And that in asking for access, we are the ones who are excluding others– at a university whose primary draw is that it is “for the deaf.”

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