Key Issues linking to International Sign Language Rights Movement
Key issues for public to understand the serious concerns identified by
Deaf people and Deaf communities globally:
1. Language cleansing (i.e. downsizing, discouraging, eliminating or depriving sign language without knowing its serious implications)
Fact: Many deaf children with cochlear implants are discouraged and deprived from learning and using sign language, which impacts their linguistic and mental health development and leads to serious literacy, mental health and social welfare issues that hinder them from getting higher education or employment opportunities.
2. Transition planning (i.e. refusing to develop and implement transition planning for those deaf children who have not succeeded in spoken language programs)
Fact: Many deaf children who have not succeeded in spoken language programs are still not being allowed to learn and use sign language because there are no transition planning policies in the Infant Hearing Program and its Communication Supports Program.
3. Informed Information/Decision (i.e. many new parents of deaf children are not aware of potential risks/side effects of Auditory Verbal Therapy(AVT) programs until their children experience mental health and language problems in their later life. There is no checklist for parents of deaf children to identify mismatched communication and acting-out behaviours.)
Fact: No information regarding the harmful effects of AVT and preventative mental health information is available to new parents of deaf children until their children reach their teen years and begin to experience difficulties. Many new parents of deaf children and professionals in the field of the health and education of deaf people are not informed of a full spectrum of information. Many are still not aware of (or avoid learning about) the realities, possibilities and accomplishments of Deaf people. They fear losing their jobs to Deaf people or losing their children to the Deaf community.
4. Misleading Information about implications of sign language (i.e. speech, language and intelligence development are compromised by learning/using sign language)
Fact: Parents of deaf children are often not aware that there is no research or empirical studies to support this perception for those parents of deaf children who choose to pursue to both AVT and ASL services. In fact, research studies show that using sign language greatly benefits deaf children's linguistic, speech, intelligence and academic performance.
5. Audism and Discrimination against Deaf people who use sign language If Sign language is so evil that it must not be taught to deaf people, then why do the same schools that refuse to teach it to deaf students have no trouble teaching it to non-deaf high school and adult students? Why do medical professionals and early childhood educators zealously campaign against teaching Sign to deaf children, yet enthusiastically support teaching it to non-deaf children because it has been proven to accelerate brain development and to overcome other kinds of communication disabilities such as autism? Why do bilingualism advocates push vigorously for non-deaf infant second-language training, yet at the same time the audist establishment pushes vigorously for teaching deaf infants only spoken language? The answer to all these questions is simply audism. Audism refers to discrimination based on a person's ability to hear. Like all forms of discrimination, audism is grounded in misconception and misunderstanding, often disguised in sentiments of concern for safety, unawareness of accommodations or perceived undue financial hardship in providing accommodations. When discriminatory beliefs give rise to discriminatory actions, unfair limits and barriers are imposed. An example of this would be a statement such as, "Deaf children with cochlear implants can't learn sign language."
Fact: It is okay for hearing babies to learn sign language but deaf babies are discouraged from learning sign language. Discrimination issues are examples of promoting a "one-sided" system, banning deaf children with cochlear implants from receiving ASL services, and avoiding criteria for success and transition planning for deaf children/students who are not succeeding in spoken language programs. This is clearly a form of discrimination, like that of ASL cleansing, which deliberately weakens the rich language and cultural heritage of the Deaf community. It puts deaf children's language access and mental health at risk.
6. Legal Case: Provincial Court of Saskatchewan (August 19, 2005) Judge Orr recognized that physicians and medical personnel, audiologists, educators, child protection workers and others are undoubtedly caring and capable professionals. It was clear that, throughout, as they should, these people acted in strict accordance with the policies, directives and mandates of the governmental or other bodies for which they work. Unfortunately, the best efforts of these fine people failed to avert a terrible disaster in the life of a little deaf boy.
The judge ruled that American Sign Language (ASL) must be offered to Deaf children as a communication option in the early years. This the clear message contained in a landmark Saskatchewan court decision. At issue in this court is the philosophy of Saskatchewan Pediatric Auditory Rehabilitation Centre (SPARC), the publicly funded pre-school program offered to deaf children in the province. SPARC follows the the restrictive "auditory-verbal" approach which focuses only on restoration and remediation of hearing and speech.
Fact: Sign language is clearly a human right and educational right of Deaf children.
See the World Federation of the Deaf's Policy Statement on Education Rights for Deaf Children at:
World Federation of the Deaf's Fact Sheet on Sign Language: