Consider this an open response to a thread on Ryan Commerson's comments about Hands & Voices. I am mainly directing this open letter to representatives of Facundo Element, who have good intentions in promoting American Sign Language, despite their controversial tactics and approaches.
Cued Speech is a visual communication system that is based on the linguistic principles of spoken language. Some view it as a tool, others view it as a language mode (just as speech and print are language modes, but not languages on their own). We are already witnessing 2nd generation deaf families who cue. That in itself is proof of cued language as a preferred language mode for some members of the deaf community.
American Sign Language does not have a print form that is ready accessible nor does it have an auditory mode. It is only in the visual medium that it can be conveyed. So comparing Cued Speech and American Sign Languages is like comparing vegetables and fruits. Both are visual, but the commonality ends there.
The logistics of learning a new language can be daunting for some parents who already are overwhelmed with the demands of supporting their family therefore Cued Speech has attracted some parents because of the idea that they can visually represent the language they already know and use in their home and can easily learn the system in a matter of days, not months or years.
There is still marginalization in the community against Cued Speech, whether Deaf people choose to recognize it or not. Gallaudet and RIT/NTID have been agents of oppression and discrimination over the past few decades in regards to recognizing Cued Speech and the benefits it has for providing direct access to spoken language. Despite inclusion in federal law, there is no equity when addressing all modes of communication. ASL is not the only option for the deaf and hard of hearing, as many parents ask the question of how they can effectively convey their own spoken language to their deaf children.
The perspective of socioeconomic inequity is a function of one's own experiences. I can say the same about the oral community in terms of socioeconomic factor playing a role in the demographics, but that is a bigger issue beyond the deaf and hard of hearing community and one that needs to be addressed in terms of racial and social justice.
The fact is that H&V provides sign language interpreters at each board meeting and staff retreats. Many of the parents on the board have used and still use sign language, but it may not necessarily be American Sign Language. However it is not an organization for the deaf and hard of hearing. It is an organization that supports parents who have children with hearing loss, and as should be, H&V is primarily composed of parents with some representatives from different areas of the community.
H&V has done so much work in terms of supporting parents who pursue sign language. Yes, there is more work to be done in terms of educating ignorant and biased individuals on the impacts of hearing loss on children and the need for visual support, but there are many different opinions on how that should be done, therefore open discussion and collaboration is critical to progress.
If one has any suggestions for how H&V can improve its programming in terms of parental support, feel free to share them. But criticism does not result in progress. Collaboration does.
My perspective of accessibility at FE's think tank on deaf education was that there was some access when people moved their lips. When others did not move their lips while signing, that was a matter of inaccessibility, but rather than criticize and distract, I focused on the bigger picture of discussion and collaboration. I spoke up on behalf of spoken language, but people's responses indicated that they didn't care for the idea of spoken language. Why should people attempt to collaborate with those who are unwilling to recognize spoken language for what it is, the preferred mode of communication throughout the world in terms of socialization?
Deaf people on the H&V board are much more open-minded in terms of accepting the diversity that makes up our deaf and hard of hearing community. Not everyone is Deaf, and the reality is that the Deaf are a minority when taking into consideration the demographics of those with hearing loss. The loudest voices are not necessarily representative of the views of the masses.
There will always be a demand for services and technology that support outcomes related to spoken language and hearing as there will always be a community of Deaf people who embrace deafness as a way of life and demand access to visual languages. Why can't we co-exist?
Rather than antagonizing and alienating those who could serve as allies, Facundo Element should focus on collaboration and offering solutions. The so called "educational-medical complex" that FE rails against is a product of society's efforts to ameliorate the impacts of hearing loss in terms of language acquisition, socialization, and education. It certainly warrants a lot of improvements, but that is a matter for collaboration, not antagonization.
I have my own opinions about how the system should change in terms of improving access and educational support for all children with hearing loss, but I don't engage in counterproductive behavior that does not bring people together to focus on common issues. It is easier to fight against something than it is to come up with solutions.
I wish Facundo Element the best of luck in their efforts to bring attention to the benefits of American Sign Language, but hope that they will reflect deeply on how their own actions are adversely affecting their ability to effect positive change.