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“Deaf Not Disabled” and other Things from “Deaf Out Loud”

“Deaf Not Disabled” and other Things from “Deaf Out Loud”

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This post is about the new reality series, Deaf Out Loud. Watch out for spoilers and opinions!

I have only recently “discovered” Switched at Birth and had no idea how much it would mean to me to see deaf people like me in a show (my post about Switched at Birth is linked here). I was stoked to find that that A&E was coming out with a reality show featuring deaf families (and produced by Marlee Matlin!).

Here’s the preview:

Deaf Out Loud - Preview

The first show aired on September 12 (which, depending on when you are reading this, may or may not mean “yesterday”).

Deaf Out Loud

3 families are featured, all with varying degrees of deafness, and with kids with varying degrees of hearing. One thing goes across the board: they all use ASL. There are no deaf people in here who don’t sign.

I love all the signing. I love the deaf accents when they do speak, and I love that they represent a fair smattering across the board within the deaf community. They got that part right.

What they could have gotten was someone like me – a deaf adult, raised oral and trying to learn ASL at age 45. They could also get a hard core Deaf person – someone coming from generations of Deaf family, someone for whom having a CI or a hearing aid would be totally unthinkable.

Aside from what I think would be a more complete representation of our community, I dig the directions it has already taken us in only one show.

It has covered the diversity in the deaf community, controversy over CI, what wearing hearing aids sound like to a profoundly deaf person, cost of hearing aids, deaf schools/hearing schools, family life and the normalcy of our lives.

Deaf, Not Disabled

I’ve got a beef with this. I mean, this makes no sense to me. They keep on saying, “the only thing I can’t do is hear.” Well, the only thing a wheelchair user can’t do is walk! The only thing a blind person can’t do is see!

This is why I think it’s so important to get it clear that the term, “disability” does not mean “inability.”

We’re not talking about a lack of when we say we’re disabled; we’re not saying we can’t work or have sex or live our life. What we say when we say we’re disabled is we are merely stating that we do something in a different way that regularly receives enough discrimination and causes us to face significant barriers to employment and education.

By my definition, the way we hear, see, talk, walk, roll, learn, think, communicate, look; the way our body functions, causes us to be discriminated against and also causes us to face significant barriers to employment and education.

This means disability.

I used to be like them – I used to get all strong-armed over the whole, “I don’t have a disability; I just can’t hear” thing.

How did that help me? Hmm. Well, when I got fired from jobs because I couldn’t hear, I had no recourse because I didn’t think I was disabled. I didn’t get financial assistance through scholarships for students with disabilities, I didn’t apply for awesome internships for students with disabilities, etc. I cornered myself by saying that I wasn’t disabled. I gave myself all of the disadvantages of disability and none of the perks.

Moving On

Deaf Out Loud is right after Born This Way, which is the reality series about a group of young adults with Down syndrome. It’s kind of awesome to me that there is a reality series for my daughter’s tribe right before the series for my own tribe, and I love that our perspectives, challenges, frustrations and daily lives are being shared with the world.

I love that there is obviously a desire for content like this on mainstream TV.

I love that we keep pushing for understanding, acceptance and cultural shifts and we can see this happening.

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