Saturday, 6 December 2008

Different rules for Deaf People?

When people talk about the importance of better representation for minorities or women, it’s very clear exactly what they mean – to actually increase the numbers of the relevant people in the places where they are underrepresented. So if there are not enough women or ethnic minorities in Parliament, for example, they will try to increase the numbers.

Yet when it is shown that deaf people are underrepresented in Parliament or even their own organisation, all of a sudden the rules change. All of a sudden it’s not all that important to increase the numbers of the people who are underrepresented. It is now acceptable to water down that principle and have third parties representing us instead. It’s suddenly acceptable to have somebody who is the father, the mother, the grandson, the sister or the brother of a deaf person step in and do it for us. Sometimes the connection is even looser.

So why is there one rule for deaf people and another rule for everybody else? Could it be because some people have decided that we are ‘not good enough’ to represent ourselves? If so, that is not genuine representation, it is paternalism.

If somebody was a true friend of deaf people, wouldn’t they want the same things for deaf people as everybody else? Wouldn’t they want deaf people to have the fishing rod and fish for themselves rather than keep them dependent, throwing little fish at them from time to time? Wouldn’t they want deaf people to do things for themselves, to act and speak on their own behalf?

When Jackie Ballard was in Parliament, she worked to improve the representation of women. She has been described as a feminist and in one website, as ‘one of the driving forces in campaigns to get more women into Parliament.’

Now Ms Ballard is in the best position to do the same thing for deaf people in Parliament and especially at RNID. I hope she will do it.

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