Saturday, September 02, 2006

“Blindness separates people from things, but deafness separates people from people.”

Helen Keller

Since the late 1960’s, the N.T.I.D. (National Technical Institute for the Deaf) has been one of the 8 “colleges” at R.I.T.  Over 8% of the total R.I.T. population is deaf or hard-of-hearing.  There are deaf and hearing dorms and classes, but in an effort to mainstream deaf students, there are many mixed dorms and classes.  Because classes have not started, yet, I can only say that I have no deaf students in my dorm.  I would be surprised, though, if I had no classes with deaf students.  Anyway, I have been giving it some thought, and I think that I am going to try to learn A.S.L. (American Sign Language).  The only contact that I’ve had with deaf people is with Sami F.’s parents, and they speech-read and speak very well.  I doubt that they even know A.S.L.  An easy way of making a little money here at R.I.T. is to take notes for the deaf students.  Because I’ll be taking notes anyway, it won’t be a hassle.  In high school I had done this many times for various reasons, the only obstacle that I see is communicating with the deaf.  Learning A.S.L. will, of course, solve this.

It is obvious, I hope, that money isn’t the only incentive that I have to do this.  Knowing A.S.L., like any “foreign” language, will open up many job opportunities, though most of them are in fields in which I have no interest (customer service, restaurant, etc. social crap).  I guess that my primary incentive is to help people.  It’s too bad that R.I.T. has to be the mixed (deaf and hearing) college with the highest population of deaf students.  Us geeks are quite shy, and even the ones who want to include the deaf and hard-of-hearing (or vice versa), aren’t apt to do so.

While on the subject of the deaf and hard-of-hearing, at the “Two Worlds” seminar-thingy, the controversy of the cochlear implant came up.  I guess some deaf people are proud of their condition, and they feel that those who accept the cochlear implant are denouncing the deaf community.  To me, this sounds like bullshit.  I can’t imagine how anyone would abandon the deaf community just because they could hear.  Also, you can’t blame someone for trying to be “normal”.  If I was lacking a sense, especially if I had lost it and could remember a time when I had it, I would probably do anything shy of killing a man just to get it back, if even for a moment.  Sure when I eat cafeteria food, I wish I couldn’t taste, or when I drive through the country, I wish I couldn’t smell the manure, but if I actually couldn’t taste or smell, I’d be very distraught.  To shun someone for trying to gain or regain a sense is an extremely selfish act, in my opinion.  I see the cochlear implant as a way for the quality of life of the deaf population to increase, not as a device meant to vanquish all deaf culture.  This invention could be priceless to children who must otherwise grow up different and teased.  Everyone at R.I.T., especially the deaf community, knows how mean children can be, and denying anyone who could benefit from the cochlear implant is a terrible course of action.

But that’s just my opinion.