Sunday, 10 February 2019

Whoa, Tim has his own definition of ‘deaf community.’

So, some people were saying to me recently that not all deaf people identify as members of the deaf community. That seems like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it? How can you be deaf, but not a member of the deaf community? I’m not going to pretend I don’t know what they mean, though - they mean ‘deaf community’ equals ‘culturally deaf,’ with a little collection of exclusive entry requirements. However, we live in a democracy where we all have different opinions. Just because a group of people have unilaterally decided that their bespoke definition of ‘deaf community’ is the one that applies, doesn’t mean that the rest of us have to yield to it. It affects us too. Nor does it mean that the opinions of some deaf people can be picked up and used as a stick to beat down other deaf people. That’s called ‘playing deaf people off against each other.’

It’s true that the words ‘deaf community,’ formerly with a capitalised D, are used by a lot of people in the way described above.

I have a different use of the term and use ‘deaf community’ to refer to all deaf people collectively, however they might choose to identify, because I believe in diversity, interaction and inclusion of the sub-groups within our group. We all share common social norms, even between the most opposite ends of the spectrum; norms such as lip-reading, subtitles, hearing aids. I don’t ‘celebrate our differences,’ I celebrate the things we have in common. Again, there’s no dichotomy, but a spectrum. Deaf culture is much more diverse than some people pretend and all deaf people are culturally deaf. To claim otherwise is to other some deaf people and strip them of their deaf identity.

Although it’s true that not all deaf people identify as members of the ‘deaf community,’ this seems to be because they are simply giving way to the traditional definition of ‘deaf community.’ The discussion began with this idea that on one side there is a group of people who are ‘culturally deaf’ and on the other side, a group who are not. I don’t think it’s nearly so neat a divide. It’s a false dichotomy. In fact, BSL-English interpreters were at pains to insist to me that they have met with, worked with and talked with people who don’t identify as part of the deaf community at about the same time as they mix and work with people who do. But apparently, I’m supposed to pretend that there is some big wall between the groups. I get that these interpreters are being sensitive and respectful to the consensus agreed upon and passed to them by the deaf people that they most closely deal with, but not all of us think the same way.

I completely respect how other deaf people choose to identify, that’s their right. But I refuse to meekly yield to the traditional definition of ‘deaf community’ in the process. That’s my right.

What I am saying is that I see the ‘deaf community’ not as an exclusive group with stringent, narrow entry requirements, but as a broad, diverse and inclusive place where all are welcome. I’ve seen it happen at my local deaf clubs.

Well, that’s how I want to see it. Maybe you’re thinking ‘well, ok, but the deaf people we know tell us that SSE, for example, is an imposition of English on our beautiful language, BSL, and SSE is not a language.’ Things like that. You’re thinking this way because you’re respectful of deaf people. The trouble is that there are some of us who also identify as deaf, but do not tick all the boxes demanded by the picky cultural high command. You don’t get to stick your nose in the air and wave us away with the back of your hand, as if we’re irrelevant second-rate deaf people, whose feelings and experiences don’t count. Some of us would tick all these ‘right’ boxes if it were not for oralism. Oralism is oppression and I for one am not going to let it get in the way of who I am.

And nobody else has the right to let it get in the way of who I am, either. Unless you fancy being known as somebody who colludes in oralist oppression.

I’ll make my own mind up what I consider to be a progressive convention. If you want to try and change my mind about anything, great, but nobody gets to speak over me on things that affect me. That’s the thing about autonomy - everybody has it, even the deaf people who have been snobbishly dismissed as unworthy.

If some deaf people are isolated, then doing things that further isolate them is very wrong, no matter how well-intentioned and right-on you think you are.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Your Disability Living Allowance is ending.

So I received the letter from the Department for Work and Pensions telling me that '[my] Disability Living Allowance is ending.' It begins by saying:

You may already be aware that Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will end soon for most claimants, including you. This affects you even if you have an indefinite award of DLA.

A new benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has been introduced to help with extra costs if you have a long term health condition or disability.

I am angry about this. I think that the DWP's actions are both immoral and unlawful. My DLA was awarded to me on an 'indefinite' basis by an Independent Tribunal - a proper court - after a number of years' dispute. I consider it to be for the DWP to follow this decision.

Instead, they and the Conservative government have come along and unilaterally and retrospectively cancelled the decision of the tribunal.

I think it is open to the government to create a new benefit for new claimants. I do not think it is open to the government to create a new benefit and impose it on existing claimants, replacing the old benefit, but with different rules, rates and conditions. This is moving the goalposts to disqualify people who previously qualified.

This is why they used to make sure that new rules for new benefits would 'not affect existing claimants.' It was consistent with the legal principle of non-retroactivity.

As a result, I wrote to the DWP, requesting a mandatory reconsideration of their decision to end my DLA. I am not an expert on social security law, but I understand that you are entitled to appeal any decision about your benefits.

This was about a month ago and I have still not heard back from them. I asked them on Twitter if they had an e-mail address that I can contact them with, but they said that they do not offer such a facility.

How can it be right for the DWP to discriminate against Deaf people like this? They cancel my benefit and then make it almost impossible to contact them to discuss the matter.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Petition calling for the Speaker to tell Ministers to answer the question.

I've just set up a new petition and the idea behind it is fairly simple.

We keep seeing David Cameron answer a question at Prime Minister's Questions with something other than what he was asked.

For example, Jeremy Corbyn asks about flood defences and Mr Cameron replies with mockery about the Shadow Cabinet reshuffle.

So my petition is to try and dissuade or prevent Ministers from changing the subject. I think that this is important because MPs ask questions on behalf of their constituents and we are anxious to hear what the government is doing about our problems and whether they are taking them seriously.

This is why my petition calls for the Speaker to have the power to direct Ministers to answer the questions put to them in the course of Parliamentary business.

If you support my petition, please sign it and share it, thank you!

Link to petition.

Friday, 28 November 2014

On Tony Blair

If Tony Blair did not think that he needed a second UN Security Council resolution for permission to invade Iraq, then why did he first set out to get one?

As Robin Cook said in his resignation speech:

"I applaud the heroic efforts that the Prime Minister has made in trying to secure a second resolution. I do not think that anybody could have done better than the Foreign Secretary in working to get support for a second resolution within the Security Council. But the very intensity of those attempts underlines how important it was to succeed. Now that those attempts have failed, we cannot pretend that getting a second resolution was of no importance."

Blair cannot go with the law when it suits him and then go against it when it does not. He knew going to war was against the law and he should be tried at the Hague.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The UK in the European Convention: fudge, or a shining example?

The UK in the European Convention: fudge, or a shining example?

My response:

The idea that the signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights intended to be anything other than fully bound by the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights is absolutely ridiculous. As if the European Court of Human Rights is just some sort of advisory or guidance body and not a proper court.

Clever people come along and try to smuggle the European Union 'subsidiarity principle' into the debate and muddy the waters in all sorts of other convoluted ways, but they can’t bat away the point that I’ve just made above.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Some more thoughts on 'medical model' terminology used to refer to Deaf people.

Since my last blog post I have thought some more on the issue of ‘medical model’ terminology and after reading Charlie’s thought-provoking blog post and having a good Twitter discussion with him, Alison and others, I have decided that I am going to have to retract part of what I said, to quote:

“The new terminology around ‘loss’ is strictly medical model and while I have no problem with people seeing and describing their own deafness this way...”

This seemed pretty reasonable to me when I said it. It was about respecting differences of opinion and perception, and the right to self-determine. As Charlie had quite fairly questioned, ‘is it right to tell other deaf people they shouldn't call themselves something?’ However, I don’t think anybody is quite doing that; people will use whatever terms that they like, as they are entitled to do so. I think it is more about just debating which terms are better and hopefully agreeing on something that is not damaging or oppressive to Deaf people and then encouraging their use.

So what is the problem with people describing themselves as ‘hearing impaired’? That’s their choice, right? Yes, but I think there are two issues here. Firstly, it could be argued that the term is oppressive or even abusive and that it is biased, of the medical model and imposed on us from a hearing perspective. ‘Impaired’ is in the same bracket as 'loss,' ‘broken,’ damaged,’ ‘defective,’ ‘lacking,’ etc. If somebody self-harms, we wouldn’t just shrug our shoulders and say ‘well that’s his choice’ and then leave it at that. We might encourage him to seek help, etc. So is somebody psychologically self-harming by referring to himself in such terms? I used to do this sort of thing and it didn’t feel at all good for me.

Secondly, Alison referred to John Donne’s famous quote that ‘No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.’ If you give people the OK or nod to use oppressive terms to describe themselves, or you just let them get on with doing so, doesn’t that have implications for the rest of us? It may be self-perpetuating, giving other people the impression that it’s acceptable to refer to us in this way.

I am glad this debate is now underway, as I think we need to push away the old oppressive terms.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Why RNID's re-brand was a disaster for Deaf people.

A few years ago, the Royal National Institute for Deaf people (RNID) re-branded, changing their name to Action on Hearing loss (AOHL.) I think this was a disaster for Deaf people and here I will set out why.

The old word – Deaf – is perfect in terms of diversity and inclusion. It includes people who espouse the medical model of disability – seeing Deafness as a problem and/or tragedy. But it also includes people on the opposite end of the spectrum, those who espouse the social model of disability and Deafness and who embrace Deaf community, culture, and language. It also includes everybody in between. The word is entirely neutral. This is why it is still easily my preferred term today. ‘Deaf’ is also the best term for an organisation that wishes to represent all deaf people, because it doesn’t leave anybody out while still respecting difference.

The old terms that came with ‘Deaf’ – ‘making the world a better place for Deaf and hard of hearing people’ were superior to their replacement for a number of reasons. They were about respecting and including people. Such words made it clear that Deaf people were part of society and had an equal stake in society. The new terminology around ‘loss’ is strictly medical model and while I have no problem with people seeing and describing their own deafness this way, they have no business imposing it on others. Who has the right to come along and declare or make out that my deafness is a disability, a loss, a tragedy that is in need of ‘action’ to correct it? Apart from being factually incorrect in my case – I never lost anything, I can see myself how I like and if I choose to see myself as a Deaf person who likes his Deafness, community, culture and language, who has the right to object?

How can it be good for Deaf people and Deaf children to tell them that they should not be proud of who they are, that they are defective, and that they have a ‘problem’ that requires ‘action’ in order to be ‘fixed’? How is that good for their psychological well-being? Isn’t that just a hearing person’s perspective? To me the idea of suddenly becoming hearing is probably just as horrible as the idea of suddenly becoming deaf is to a hearing person.

People often say that you should be positive and not negative. I think you need to find a balance. And isn’t my view of Deaf people here positive, while AOHL’s is negative? Yet who is supposed to be at the crease batting for Deaf people? RNID’s re-brand was a disaster for Deaf people engineered by hearing people with a negative view of Deafness. These new words in their name are for their benefit, not ours.