Disability or just culture thing?


After reading the blog posts listed on DeafRead written by Dianrez and Jamie Berke, I pondered that I too share the same perception.

I observed that when a deaf person is being laughed at or chided due to their incoherent and often grammatically crazy written English, they argue by saying, this is part of deaf culture. But when they don’t understand simple written instructions, they excuse themselves by saying they are disabled. We call this situation in Tagalog, “sala sa init, sala sa lamig” or “not fit for either hot or cold”. I am talking from my perspective of a Filipino deaf and not the Deaf in general.

This also holds true when applying for a job. The deaf challenges companies not to discriminate them. They seek for equal opportunities and advocate empowerment for disabled people. But when companies give them the same qualifying exams as with hearing people, they cry foul. They ask for more leniency because they don’t understand directions on how to fill up the test sheet. When hearing people are required to undergo typing speed tests for up to 60 words per minute to pass, the deaf would make “hirit” or bargain for lowering of the limit. They explain that they are a cultural minority and the words used in the instructions are “too deep” for them.

I remember a great while back when I was hired to interpret for a deaf person in applying for a job as a service crew in one of the fast food chains here. During his interview, the officer-in-charge first asked me if he understood plain English. I relayed to him the question and he said yes. Then the personnel started writing his questions on a piece of paper and gave it to him. Both of us were surprised but the deaf appeared worried. He signed to me, “What’s going on? I thought I would interpret for him.”

I told the personnel about the deaf’s apprehension. He explained to me that he wants the answers straight from the deaf’s mind and not to be coursed through an interpreter. That way, he can gauge his level of English comprehension and would assess if he won’t need anybody to interpret for him. I again relayed his explanation to the deaf but it did not sit well with him. He signed that as a deaf, he has the right to have an interpreter. But the officer responded, since they will be communicating through pen and paper, they might as well start doing it. Besides, he defended that the company also gives written interviews to other applicants. Why would a deaf person be treated differently? In the end, the deaf agreed to do it. Unfortunately, he wasn’t called for succeeding tests.

Blogger Dianrez wrote in one of her posts,

Yet, we gratefully accept special considerations such as schools for the deaf, colleges dedicated to deaf students, interpreters, government assistance, and electronic devices, among others. In seeking jobs, we willingly accept any extra help that comes our way. In public areas such as airports and meetings with public servants i.e. police, we tread with unusual care, mindful of bad experiences other people had. Despite what we say, inwardly we seem to accept that we are different and that it means accepting help, if somewhat reluctantly.

Before, the disabled community always invite the deaf group to join in “Special Olympics” or Sports for the Disabled People held in our country. But lately, they refuse to include the deaf in their events. They argued that the deaf would definitely win hands down in sports like track and field, volleyball and basketball. Wheelchaired people cannot compete with the deaf in basketball. It’s an uneven match. However, in our present laws, the deaf is still considered as part of the disabled sector. Now, do we use “culture” here or “disability”?

We use “disability” when we need special accommodations. But we apply “culture” when we don’t want to be treated as such. I’m still at a loss with this. I’m sure many of my readers also feel the same way. 🙂

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One thought on “Disability or just culture thing?

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  1. hmm, interesting perspective.

    well, i guess that’s what makes deafness such an intriguing “disability”; we are different because we simply are. You can see a crowd of people with a few deaf in there, and wont be able to spot them when they dont sign or make it obvious, unlike someone blind or crippled.

    however, in situations where there’s no way to communicate, I am effectivily disabled.

    So in a way, deafness affects YOU too; its not us that’s disabled but the communication itself between everyone.

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