Province shows ignorance of deaf residents – Osprey Media

Province shows ignorance of deaf residents

/ Belleville Intelligencer; Osprey News Network

Editorial – Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The province is failing in its role to ensure all citizens are treated equally by dismantling American Sign Language programs and support services for deaf and hard of hearing children. The erosion of these services in favour of oral or auditory-verbal programs flies in the face of a court decision in 1989 that extended the right to the deaf to have ASL taught in classrooms. Research has shown that teaching ASL results in better cognitive and language development.

Some deaf students walked out of class at deaf schools across Ontario last week, including about 20 at Sir James Whitney in Belleville, to press for their rights and to raise awareness of the issue.

Advocacy groups such as the Ontario Association for the Deaf (OAD) and the Canadian Association of the Deaf sought audiences with Ontario and Ottawa by holding rallies at Queen’s Park and on Parliament Hill.

Why is the province so adamant about making sign language disappear, as it has been accused by critics? Apparently, advancements in technology are a factor in the government’s thinking, but the advocacy groups for the deaf suggest that thinking is short-sighted. And it doesn’t explain the government’s ongoing delays in implementing the education rights the deaf have won.

The new technology involves cochlear implants, small complex electronic devices that do not restore normal hearing but can give a deaf person sounds that can lead to understanding speech.

The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto does more cochlear implants than any other hospital in North America. But the hospital clearly states on its website that the implants do not hold any guarantees for the deaf.

According to the OAD, 93 per cent of deaf children enrolled in oral programs have a dropout rate of 62 per cent by the time they reach high school.

Only 1.7 per cent of the deaf earn a university degree and the number of deaf students enrolled in post-secondary institutions has fallen by 50 per cent in just two years.

Clearly, sign language is the choice for the deaf, and oral programs and cochlear implants can help, but they don’t fully meet their needs.

Ontario Education Minister Kathleen Wynne says the government has been consulting with the deaf and is working to implement some standards and regulations for schools. An announcement is imminent, she said.

If the province is about to reveal new standards and finally fulfill its obligations to the deaf, what is the point of the bill?

Audism describes an attitude and belief that sign language is inferior to spoken language. The OAD notes that the province, by its actions to date in denying the deaf their right to a full education and thus to live a full life, is practising audism.

In reality, when it comes to the deaf, it is the province that needs educating.

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