Oppression, discrimination, subjugation, are all words and behaviors that countless minority groups deal with daily. Often times, we may ruminate that these words, are only used to label a gender or race. However, there is one specific word, to describe solely, what a Deaf person encounters daily, and that word is audism. The term (Audism) is to be defined as a notion that one is superior, based on the ability to hear, and or to behave in the manner of one who hears. In 1975, Tom Humphries established this term while in his doctoral program to delineate, how those who are Deaf, and or Hard of Hearing are oppressively treated in the Hearing world; in such places as the workplace, local business and their own families (Bahan, B., Bauman, H.D, Montenegro, F., 2006).
Audsim can be displayed in several different forms, and those are; demonstrating the lack of signing in front of a Deaf person when one knows how to sign, viewing that a Deaf person has no right to a position of authority, that Hearing culture is superior, a low expectation for those who are Deaf and or hard of hearing because of the lack of speech and hearing, and parents of deaf children forcing their child to conform to hearing culture, instead of embracing their child being deaf and unique unto themselves (Bahan, B., Bauman, H.D, Montenegro, F., 2006).
The movie also revealed different forms of punishment that those who were Deaf had to endure, and those were; parents cutting out children’s tongues, and in schools, they would often make children kneel on broomsticks with their arms spread out. Not only was the punishment for being deaf heinous, so was the discrimination throughout the world. Many different cultures have diverse methodologies on why a person becomes Deaf. Some believe, it is because they were a gossiper in a past life and even the erroneous belief that if an individual were to assist in helping a deaf mother give birth, they would fear that touching her would make them cursed. These beliefs are evidently, flawed and punitive, about those who are Deaf (Bahan, B., Bauman, H.D, Montenegro, F., 2006).
Audism is not just limited to those who are hearing and have never encountered a Deaf person. These circumstances, are all too familiar even in families who have Deaf children. Sadly, 85 percent of Deaf children live in homes where family members do not use sign language on a regular basis. Moreover, many deaf children feel, that they have lack of support from their family members. Along with, lack of communication, and with feelings of being left out of daily conversations. Many times audism in families looks like this to the Deaf family member, “you wouldn’t understand”, “it’s boring”- but the child see’s people laughing and “never mind I’ll tell you later”- and never get told. Despondently, most families who have a deaf child generally view the child as a retribution for the family, and from that resentment, the child becomes isolated and is left out of daily communication (Bahan, B., Bauman, H.D, Montenegro, F., 2006).
In conclusion, it is vital to create awareness about Audism. By creating awareness we begin to impact other communities with knowledge about the deaf community and how they are proud of their culture. By focusing on eradicating Audism we are knocking down communication barriers and predisposed notions about the Deaf community. Lastly, it is noteworthy to recognize, that the in the Deaf community is limitless. Being Deaf has no bearing on one's intellect, or the ability to live a quality life. The natural language of the Deaf community is sign language and we should advocate the preservation of sign language and the culture of the Deaf community. By doing so we are eradicating Audism, and shedding light on a culture that is rich, vibrant and full of history, and that is the Deaf culture and its community (Bahan, B., Bauman, H.D, Montenegro, F., 2006)
By: Niccole Pazos
The Bridge Outreach for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing