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<<Biblioteca Digital del Portal<<La Educación<<La Educación (120) I, 1995 <<Artículo
La Educación
Número: (120) I
Año: 1995


Ethnocentrism induces us to regard those from another culture as unfriendly, somewhat frightening, peculiar, inferior, backwards, or primitive. We may not even be aware of other cultures like the Deaf Community; cultures that exist within and alongside our larger society. All people do not acknowledge that diverse ways of dealing with human interactions may be equally effective and equally appropriate. They want everybody to do things their way. Doing things differently can be threatening. People are sometimes reluctant to admit that some of their ways might be counterproductive for other people.

The Deaf Community offers a refutation to such attitudes. Deaf people have found adaptive strategies for dealing with their lot. In significant aspects, their ways differ from the majority’s ways. They live among majorities that, at best, ignore them and, at worst reject them. Deaf people live in a world designed for people who can hear. In many countries some deaf people thrive, despite the obvious handicaps imposed upon them. A great deal of their success—personal emotional, social and economic—can be traced to the mutual support they receive from their deaf colleagues.

The Deaf Community serves as an exciting example of a self-help society. It refutes the thinking underlying the classification of early deafness as a clinical-pathological entity. Yes, deaf people are members of an oppressed minority. Yes, they need assistance to attain their rightful place in any community. But what they require is not medical; it is social.

To clarify our position, consider what the world would be like if everyone was deaf. If everyone had pneumonia, we would live—but not for long—in horrible circumstances. But if everyone was deaf, we would simply rearrange the environment to suit that fact. We would not regard the inability to hear as a disability. Hearing would not seem to be a necessity, as it often appears to be now. We would no more miss hearing than we now miss being able to breath under water.

The social model of deafness leads to a more productive approach to special education and rehabilitation than does the medical model. It emphasizes deaf people’s abilities not their disabilities. Acknowledging the Deaf Community can enhance its contributions, not only to deaf people but to society at large. Recognizing what deaf people have created on their own, all education and rehabilitation should strive to take advantage of it and to develop it even further.