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.