Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Deaf People's Rights and Cued Speech

I sent an email to Human Rights Watch in response to a video they produced, drawing attention to the issues of those who have hearing loss. My email is posted below. I strongly encourage the Cued Speech community to contact Human Rights Watch and share their experiences with Cued Speech.


A video by HRW was brought to my attention regarding the rights of deaf people. 

While I applaud HRW's efforts to support the deaf and hard of hearing population, I believe that the organization could benefit from some further education about the demographics of those impacted by hearing loss. 

Sign language is not the only option that parents have in terms of learning to communicate visually. Cued Speech is a different type of visual communication system that is based on the linguistic principles of spoken language, therefore rendering it easier to learn and use over time compared to sign language. 

One of the biggest logistical challenges that parents face in learning sign language is the fact that they are learning a new language. One of the reasons why deaf children struggle is because of the limited communication within their family and that further perpetrates the sense of isolation and exclusion.

In my opinion deaf and hard of hearing children have a right to access to the language of their home (which is overwhelmingly spoken-language based). As long as they have full and consistent access within the family unit, then they are developing a language foundation upon which they can learn multiple languages, including sign language. 

In the United States, nearly 10 million people are impacted by hearing loss, yet not even 400,000 of these people use sign language, and Gallaudet counts hearing people who sign among that number of sign language users. While the number of cuers (those who use Cued Speech) is far lower - 2% of DHH students use Cued Speech for educational access according to the General Accounting Office - the results are profound. 

Cued Speech demonstrates a paradigm shift in how deaf and hard of hearing children gain access to society in terms of language, socialization, and education. Research continues to demonstrate that those exposed to Cued Speech are acquiring language as a native user of their home language.

We have the right to access to spoken language and hearing technology just as we have the right to visual languages. Sign language is not the only option out there, and it is HRW's duty to not to continue that perception that sign language is the sole answer when it contributes to that sense of isolation in some ways in terms of not giving children the necessary skills for adapting to a spoken-language based society.

Please feel free to check out, and the Cued Speech group on Facebook. You can also visit my blog at to learn more about the different aspects of the deaf and hard of hearing community.

We are a minority, but a federally protected minority in regards to IDEA, ADA, and Section 504. Despite these federal regulations, we still struggle for acceptance and recognition as a community. We are developing our own sense of cue culture, which is a different form of "Deaf culture" in that we have overwhelmingly positive views of our experiences growing up. The vast majority of native cuers are happy their parents chose Cued Speech, yet many of them go on to join the deaf community and become "highly flexible communications" in that they can speak, read, write, cue, and sign.

Furthermore, one of the most important milestones internationally is the fact that the Dominican Republic is now requiring the use of Cued Speech to teach literacy in all schools of the deaf across the country. Sign language is still a part of the curriculum, but the reality is that Cued Speech is far more effective in terms of facilitating language and literacy development. 

We are looking for equity and inclusion in terms of the mainstream media recognizing Cued Speech for what it is, a game-changer in deaf education and for direct access to spoken language.

I look forward to your responses and any opportunities for collaboration in the future.

Aaron Rose, MSDE


Feel free to contact Human Rights Watch at and share your thoughts about how HRW can address the rights of the deaf, not just those who use sign language. 

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