Who Decides for Us, Deaf People?

Authored by: Helen R. Thumann , Laurene E. Simms

Handbook of Social Justice in Education

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  June  2009

Print ISBN: 9780805859270
eBook ISBN: 9780203887745
Adobe ISBN: 9781135596149


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The purpose of this chapter is to examine certain perspectives and present a defensible analysis of the research that has shaped the destiny of a people who are categorized by society-at-large as being “disabled” or “hearing impaired”: the Deaf.1 Specifically, this chapter attempts to compare educational and social research emerging from pathological versus cultural viewpoints. Given our identities as members of the Deaf community and culture, fluent American Sign Language (ASL) users, former teachers of Deaf children, and current faculty members of Gallaudet University’s Department of Education, we have observed and experienced how Deaf people and the Deaf community have been viewed and regarded as “less than.” By deconstructing the patriarchal assumptions of Deaf people as deficient, we will address implications of viewing Deaf people through cultural and sociolinguistic perspectives versus medical perspectives. Our intent is to depathologize “Deafness” by showing how a lack of cultural recognition has influenced research on Deaf people. Finally this chapter will discuss implications for researchers when the Deaf community2 is recognized as a linguistic and cultural minority with a rich and unique heritage that is just as valid as the mainstream culture in which they are expected to try to participate.

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