Deafness: Difference or Disability?
MetadataShow full item record
Can education change the view of deafness as a disability? As a predominantly 'hearing' society, many individuals believe that deafness is a form of disability. Two questions arise. First, to what extent are persons in our society educating themselves about the social experience and physical conditions of "non-hearing" persons? Second, can educational programs, specifically academic courses on deaf culture and history, help to change people's perspective of physical difference as disability? In order to specifically address these questions in a small study, I used a qualitative science approach using focus groups and participant observation. First, I conducted focus groups in beginner American Sign Language classes (ASL 101) in a college in New York state, and second, I conducted focus groups with intermediate American Sign Language classes (ASL 201). The Interview Guide for the focus groups concentrated on each individual's beliefs, group discussion on deafness, as well as if and how American Sign Language classes may have changed their views. In my analysis, I discuss both students' original perspectives as well as their views after taking American Sign Language classes. I wanted to understand in more depth whether or not students' views had changed and how through my interpretation of their narrative responses. In my paper I discuss the consequences of their perspectives and the implications for further study. An additional piece of my research was to understand any social stigma (from the standpoint of social theorist Erving Goffman) as it is manifested toward persons obviously identified as hearing impaired through the use of a hearing aid. For this part of the study I used myself as both participant and object of analysis. I wear hearing aid ear hooks for a period of time and observe other's behavior toward me. My interpretations are presented in the paper. My goal is for my presentation to have an impact on each individual's view of deafness as a disability.