National Association of the Deaf Rebuts AG Bell!

All,

This morning, after much anticipation, our National Association of the Deaf (NAD) posted their response to Washington Post’s article, to refute Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell)’s claims that American Sign Language is declining.

NAD and AG Bell debate

Here is NAD’s response in text.

Here is the ASL version of NAD’s response.

Please visit NAD’s website for more information.

Winning “America’s Next Top Model” shot Nyle DiMarco to stardom, and this Deaf role model continues to win hearts across America with his moves on “Dancing with the Stars.” Many excellent articles have been written on his ascent, including a recent article by the Washington Post.

Nyle DiMarco is the latest in a long line of confident role models who demonstrate the power of being bilingual using American Sign Language (ASL) and English, and he unabashedly shares the powerful role his bilingual upbringing has had in his success. His success is unsurprising, as every child needs and deserves love and language. Families express their love to their children by communicating with them from the day they are born, as Nyle’s family did.

Such role models are an inspiration to parents who learn that their child is deaf or hard of hearing. As shown by these real stories, any deaf or hard of hearing child can achieve any dream – whether to be a model, a dancer, a medical doctor,[1] the next Academy Award winner,[2] a lawyer advising the White House,[3] or even a Receptionist of the United States.[4]

Yet, certain organizations and medical professionals continue to spread myths about sign language, primarily that a deaf or hard of hearing child will be less successful if sign language is introduced. This destructive approach is harmful to many families who deserve to know the benefits of sign language for cognitive development and education.

Numerous studies show that ASL actually enhances spoken language and auditory comprehension, even with cochlear implant users.[5] In addition, sign language has been shown to improve academic performance.[6] In fact, an article was recently published in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ journal outlining the clear benefits of learning sign language over an oral-only approach for any babies identified as deaf or hard of hearing.[7]

ASL usage is increasing, as ASL courses are among the most popular classes in high schools and colleges across the country, as well as in community programs for parents and other interested people. Even hearing parents of hearing infants are realizing the benefits of sign language as they teach their babies to sign and notice their babies are able to express their needs earlier than other babies who do not learn sign language.[8]

Families of deaf and hard of hearing children also deserve to know the harms of failing to provide their child with a fully accessible language.[9] Language deprivation as a result of misguided attempts to solely utilize listening and spoken language is real and devastating, and the effects are witnessed daily by many in our community.

Every deaf and hard of hearing child, even those using technology such as cochlear implants or hearing aids, benefits from being fluent in sign language as well as English (and any other language used at home).[10] Organizations and medical professionals who recommend that families withhold sign language from a child who has been identified as deaf or hard of hearing are grossly irresponsible.

All deaf and hard of hearing children deserve the chance to acquire language and succeed. Give sign language to every deaf and hard of hearing child to better ensure this acquisition and success; families do not need to limit themselves to only one option for their deaf or hard of hearing children. ASL enhances language acquisition for every deaf and hard of hearing child and does not take anything away from other development efforts such as speech.[11]

We ask every parent and family to communicate your love to your child through sign language. This love and communication will ensure your child succeeds with linguistic fluency.

[1] Numerous deaf medical doctors are practicing, and many are actively involved with Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Losses (AMPHL), which has information available at www.amphl.org

[2] Marlee Matlin is the youngest person to ever win an Academy Award for Best Actress; her information is available at http://www.marleematlinsite.com

[3] Claudia Gordon is a deaf lawyer who served as Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement and was the White House liaison to the disability community, as shown at https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/author/claudia-gordon

[4] Leah Katz-Hernandez is serving as the Receptionist of the United States and she greets all visitors to the White House, as noted by President Obama in his remarks provided here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/07/20/remarks-president-americans-disabilities-act

[5] http://vl2.gallaudet.edu/files/8613/9216/6288/research-brief-6-children-with-cochlear-implants.pdf;

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4237221/

[6] Hrastinski, I., Wilbur, R. (2016). “Academic Achievement of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in an ASL/English Bilingual Program.” Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education.

[7] Mellon, N., et. al. (2015). “Should All Deaf Children Learn Sign Language?” Pediatrics. Volume 136, Issue 1.

[8] http://vl2.gallaudet.edu/files/4613/9216/6279/research-brief-2-advantages-of-early-visual-language.pdf;

http://www.gallaudet.edu/Images/Clerc/pdf/Full%20Document%20of%20ASDC%20Sign%20Language%20for%20All-English.pdf; https://student.societyforscience.org/article/early-intro-sign-language-has-lasting-benefits

[9] Humphries, T., et. al. (2012). “Language acquisition for deaf children: Reducing the harms of zero tolerance to the use of alternative approaches.” Harm Reduction Journal. 9:16

[10] Davidson, K., et. al. (2014). “Spoken English language development among native signing children with cochlear implants.” Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. Apr;19(2):238-50.

[11] Researcher Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto has shown that “signed languages and spoken languages are processed identically in the human brain” and “[t]he human brain does not discriminate between the hands and the tongue; people discriminate, but not our biological human brain.” http://oes.gallaudet.edu/bl2/

Why National Association for the Deaf is involved?

National Association for the Deaf, is was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1880 as a non-profit organization run by Deaf people to advocate for deaf rights. NAD is the oldest and longest standing civil rights organization in the United States. NAD’s mission clearly states:

“The mission of the National Association of the Deaf is to promote, protect, and preserve the civil, human and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States of America.”

What had happened? It all started on April 1, 2016 when AG Bell posted their letter on their website to Washington Post. It is regarding their “Reliable Source” article that was published on March 28, 2016 about Nyle DiMarco.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 10.07.16 AM

DiMarco is is an American model and actor, In 2015, he won the 22nd season of America’s Next Top Model. He is currently a celebrity contestant on season 22 of Dancing with the Stars in 2016. He comes from a deaf family with his parents, both of his brothers, and his grandparents all born deaf. American Sign Language (ASL) is his native language. DiMarco said he is a spokesperson for LEAD-K (Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids). He is a signer and creative collaborator on The ASL App, an app that teaches conversational ASL.

Moments after AG Bell publishes their response letter to Washington Post, there was a huge uproar among Deaf Community and their allies letting AG Bell know that it was unacceptable. Twitter had exploded with their hashtag, #AGBellLies and Facebook has a constant stream of reactions and responses of their dismay of AG Bell’s actions.

Please read my previous blog, “AG Bell Belittles Nyle DiMarco” published on April 1, 2016. I have presented historical evidence that AG Bell has consistently dismiss any positive media attention on American Sign Language.

NAD was one of several organizations expressed their dismay. More are coming.

Thank you, NAD for consistently fighting for all of us who use American Sign Language. We must stop all of deception and oppressive behaviors against American Sign Language and Deaf people.

Deaf people, like Nyle DiMarco, are bilinguals. Deaf people in United States use American Sign Language and English. That is our human right.

Best,

Amy Cohen Efron

13 Responses to “National Association of the Deaf Rebuts AG Bell!”

  1. Karen Mayes Says:

    I am glad to see NAD’s response to AGBAD’s latest action. May more people read more about the history of AGBAD in which has harmed many Deaf people. I admit to have been a paying member of AGBAD (when I lived in Indiana, in Hear Indiana chapter) and I have witnessed some that I disagreed with… especially Hear Indiana’s insistence that Indiana School for the Deaf was MRE (most restrictive environment), as opposed to LRE (least restrictive environment.) When I moved out of Indiana, I turned my back against AGBAD. ASL is the most accessible language… my kids learned ASL from the birth, even when I allowed them to talk and listen (they were hard of hearing/late deafened from young age), but all the way, we signed and still sign.

  2. Marni jo Mcintosh Says:

    In my own eyes, ASL has been growing so fast. So I’m puzzled that agb commented about asl is declining. No. That’s not accurate. ASL allowed me to be who I am and loving ASL!

  3. White Ghost Says:

    Smirky…..Both sides on many oral and deaf schools are a way of dwindling. Both sides (NAD and AG Bell) are not too happy about the news. There is a big but. Many High Schools and Colleges are now considered that the American Sign Language (ASL) are now a part of Foreign language in the Foreign Department. ASL is now thriving for the particular reason (Autism, Mental and Speech Developmental and many more) nowadays. Awareness in ASL is now spreading the message in the 21st century. ASL will never die. AG Bell CANNOT interfere their program. They also cannot win.

    I am pretty sure that many hearing-loss, late deafened teens will learn about the ASL program in the foreign department at many schools. AG Bell and Parents will not, cannot stop at them…..due to what? Rebellious! *wink* LOL

  4. Todd ONeal Says:

    Amy, thank you very much for your priceless time doing this amazing report! Those are so essential information that WILL always benefit for our deaf children! It means a lot to deaf community!!

  5. Makini Galloway Says:

    I’m former NAD training course. I would like to know what’s happening of this situation.

  6. Michelle Says:

    Why does this have to be a competition? Respect in both sides people.

  7. Thelbert Ray Ivey, Sr. M=vgc3 Says:

    Why did not NAD talk about “Deaf schools”? Looking at this, https://www.facebook.com/thelbertrayiveysr

  8. Jenifer Says:

    WELL DONE AMY!! Thank you for this and for the 3 videos you made explaining about this in ASL. I want to share with you an article posted on a CODA website.

    The life we have lived, through ASL

    I woke up this morning wishing the entire world knew sign language.

    My heart littered with moving handshapes crafting stories of being, I wish often that I could share this poetry with the hearing world that surrounds me. And last night was no exception.

    At Northeastern University’s ASL Festival I watched as Deaf individuals, young and old, painted pictures of experience with their bare hands, moving side to side, up and down, as they told stories of what it means to be Deaf.

    Through poems, stories and artwork, they idolized the strength and bravery of Nyle DiMarco, shared the comfort one finds in the Deaf community, and criticized the learning standards Deaf children are held to in a hearing environment – when we can sign words, why must we also learn to speak them? When will sign language be enough?

    I watched as they stood proud of their language and their heritage – something all their own, but a glimpse of which they were willing to share with others.

    As young as eight years old, their hands, overflowing with insight and intelligence, move swiftly and softly, manipulating sentence structure and handshapes to create visual poetry, Deaf jokes and puns, much like we do with the written word.

    And their craft is undeniable to anyone who can understand the beauty of sign language. On days like these I wish everyone could.

    An hour later my sister texted me about the latest crusade against our language and culture. For decades the hearing world has been trying to denounce the worth of sign language and Deaf culture in favor of an oral, speech-based approach to living. It started with the sterilization and segregation of Deaf individuals from one another and soon expanded to an oral-only approach to education, where hands were tied behind backs both literally and figuratively as teachers attempted to train Deaf children how to speak with their mouths only, neglecting the brilliance that lay in their hands.

    For decades the hearing world has tried to dictate the lives of Deaf individuals, believing they know best. And the latest editorial from the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is no different.

    To the hearing world, Alexander Graham Bell is an inventor, an innovator. But to the Deaf world, he’s known as the father of oralism in American Deaf education. There, he has built a history of manipulative politics and oppression toward Deaf individuals, and his organization today continues to do the same.

    “What it means to be ‘deaf’ has changed,” they write, trying to justify their claims that sign language use is declining and should only be considered a secondary, optional approach to conversing with our children.

    I wonder how they know “what it means to be Deaf” when they claim that deafness doesn’t exist at all – that with the help of technology, deaf children can hear as well as their hearing counterparts.

    What they don’t recognize is that many Deaf individuals don’t believe they need to hear to be an equal and productive member of society. This audist approach carried by the AG Bell Association assumes that superiority and capability are tied to one’s ability to hear, and is discriminatory against the very people they claim to look out for.

    Ninety percent of Deaf children are born to hearing parents whose only exposure to deafness comes from the doctors they work with.

    And with misleading facts and a lack of evidence, the AG Bell Association makes a case that all Deaf children “can hear and talk” if given the appropriate tools, persuading these ill-informed parents that the only way their child will succeed is through the use of hearing aids and cochlear implants.

    “The voices of our deaf children tell the story. In videos available on AG Bell’s YouTube channel, families share the remarkable abilities of deaf children today – making music, singing songs, and participating fully in sports, theater and more, with wonderful speech and remarkable hearing,” they say.

    Although it’s there, I don’t need research to refute these claims. For to say that Deaf people cannot access these things through the beauty of sign language is an insult to the very life I have lived.

    I am a CODA, and American Sign Language is my Home.

    As a child of Deaf adults, I grew up in a world where songs and plays and stories and sports and education came to life in the hands of Deaf people, dancing and making music for me wherever they went.

    I grew up learning the heart of community at basketball games at the Rochester School for the Deaf, where I’m sure the music of hundreds of stomping feet rattling the bleachers as our students scored again and again made up for the silence you see in our waving hands.

    In the off-season, I grew up watching the plays at RSD, where stories came alive because of the expressiveness that is ASL. I grew up reading stories and songs and folktales off of the hands of others, re-watching the story of the tortoise and the hare on a VHS tape again and again, compelled by a sense of understanding as waving hands crafted lessons of humility, hard work and determination that made me feel something. It was there that I fell in love with the magic of storytelling – a part of our culture that I now cherish more than ever.

    And I grew up in a world, too, where the hands of Deaf people were far more expressive and intelligent than the words from my mouth.

    Last week as I assisted in the filming of Deaf professionals crafting ASL lectures in STEM topics, I was in awe – as their hands painted pictures of the process of photosynthesis in sign, I could now see the very concept I was learning come to life. No longer are Deaf students tied to English-based learning when the same content can now be visually accessible for students of all ages.

    This is the power of ASL – the one I wish everyone knew.

    Our children don’t need your speech-based approach to life, for with sign language they speak and hear through their hands and eyes in a way that is more complex and sophisticated than anything I have ever seen.

    The hands of our Deaf children tell the story. And far more fluidly than you or I can, manipulating sentence structure and handshapes and crafting poems of experience that say what it means to be Deaf.

    They are the bookkeepers. They are the storytellers. They are the athletes and artists, models and musicians, actors and intellects that you believe they can’t be. They are doctors, researchers, teachers, advocates and more.

    And just because you choose not to see or understand their story, does not mean it does not exist. This is the life we live, through ASL, and I am proud to call it ours.

  9. Michelle Says:

    I guess no one wants to see or hear each other. This is a “fight” that has lasted for decades….. No one is right and no one is wrong. No need for lasting out against one another.

  10. Amy Says:

    Michelle, I encourage you to study history, especially the history between NAD and AG Bell. NAD have been for a very long time tried to collaborate with AG Bell, but the efforts were fruitless. Whenever AG Bell asks for NAD for a partnership, ended up duped because AG Bell took an advantage of us. There is no meaningful partnership. For a very long time, NAD has never initiated an attack against AG Bell. It was AG Bell, for the fourth time, publicly stating false information about American Sign Language and the Deaf Community. That is when America’s Deaf Community steps in. NAD is America’s Deaf Community.

    AG Bell needs to stop making erroneous and belittling statements about American Sign Language. We are challenging them with factual information.

    So it is not about lasting out against each other. It is about making things right. We demand respect.

    Thank you,
    Amy Cohen Efron

  11. Michelle Says:

    And I think you do have it. Both sides both make erroneous statements about each other’s choices. It’s a matter of choice for families and we as professionals representing either side look like a bunch of spiked two year olds having a temper tantrum.
    These conversations would be best served talking about how to help families and support them in their journey. Whatever they decide.

  12. Carrie Cardwell Says:

    As a hard of hearing child born in 1960, I pretty much had it made (resources, attentive parents, and happily equipped with motivation in school and the arts. My younger brother was less “motivated” and threw his hearing aids across the room).
    I wasn’t thought of as a “candidate” for ASL.

    Until I decided.

    I literally ran into ASL at the ripe old age of 25 on a telephone pole where there was an ad for an ASL production of “Grimms Fairy Tales” (Cambridge, Mass.). I went to the performance and even though I couldn’t hear the interpreter and had no idea of what was said (what else is new), I was Gob struck.

    It is so obvious to me that ASL is of such a benefit emotionally. Get this. The first ASL class I went to I put up my hand when the teacher asked who had hearing loss. She clapped.

    Even if hard of hearing children attend mainstream schools, they would have a different and more whole view of themselves by attending Deaf events, by family learning ASL, etc.

    Research has long showed the abilities of children with a “bi-bi” approach as Amy so eloquently reminds. I don’t understand the willful ignorance of AG Bell around the refusal to see Deaf people as a linguistic minority.

    I now work as a psychotherapist and Expressive Therapist in Toronto. I work with hearing, deaf and Deaf persons.

    Thank you Amy for your hard work over the years. I’m a fan.

  13. Patti Says:

    Isn’t it odd that the Nad doesn’t even mention the ag bell assoc as the source of its response and it only says that orgs and medical professionals are irresponsible when they recommend oral aural only

    This is a very weak and evasive response from the NAD. It is kinda same ole same ole tactic for the Nad

    I much prefer the thoroughness the directness the justness of the Gallaudet student body and their response TO ag bell assoc and other groups

    “They who shall not be named” are being named by gally youth and CAD and our communities

    They can’t even put out their weak response praising ASL in ASL itself – instead they put it out in text English

    The fact that the NAD can not name or direct confront is a pity

    It’s one that veditz lamented in his last years – see his gensis of the NAD article

    Peace – Patti

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