Why would Deaf people want the Congress to support and ratify the Convention of the Rights for People with Disabilities (CRPD)? While we are a distinct culture with an unique language, we do have a disability, a loss of sensory input which of course being deaf or hard of hearing, is the loss of sound.
The CRPD is a United Nations treaty that the United States signed in 2009 is now going through the process of ratification of the treaty. What does this mean? According to the US International Council on Disabilities, ratification of the treaty will change the landscape in which people with disabilities are standing on a national front as well as a global one, making it a solid ground to stand on.
Because of our disability, we are one of the well known and misunderstood cultural-linguistic group in the world. Before the advent of the deaf education battleground that has continued over 130 years, our sign language was valued, probably misguided in the hearing manner but valued as an insight into how the human mind comprehends ideology.
There are naturally of course arguments regarding homeschooling and language rights. We already have some form of oralist action against the CRPD. Some construe it to an individual who is saying what he/she wants to say when they want to divert us from the bigger picture: denying the right of children who are deaf or hard of hearing to sign language. I do not mean rejecting the spoken/written languages when it comes to sign language. Many of us who live in the nations across the world are mainly bilingual, if not polyglots.
Article 2 of the CRPD talks about "language" meaning that signed languages are now on equal footing as the spoken languages, which include other languages that are not spoken, such as written or pictograph languages (Egyptians anyone?). The opponents of sign language feel that spoken language is threatened with the inclusion of signed and written/pictograph languages. The article includes "discrimination on basis of disability". How odd is it that a disability that deprives us of little to no sound is able to bring forth a language and culture so widely discriminated against, talk about double standard. Most of us are discriminated 2 ways into hell, if one may go about that. We are deaf and we use ASL. CRPD recognizes the value of sign language and its linguistic power of being on even ground with other spoken languages.
I read an article, which unfortunately I cannot find where a person mentioned that deaf people are dependent which is a conflict with the disability rights movement, which the key motive is independence. "Deaf people are dependent on interpreters because they use sign language" to that advent (I cannot find that article). Think about it, in a world that is increasingly technological, we are still providing people with jobs. We are not the only group of people who 'depend' on others to translate languages. We have Spanish speakers and in the United Nations, which the CRPD comes from, depends on interpreters of the 6 official languages in use: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Not every member of the UN will speak all 6 languages; therefore, a need for interpreters are the same for hearing people.
Article 24 - Education: This is probably where most of the parents may object to homeschooling; the public education in the States is pitiful in most areas when it comes to deaf, deaf-blind and children with disabilities. We have seen the failure of the "No Child Left Behind", where most school lay the burden of the failures on the children with disabilities, when it is their responsibility to provide an education - equal and accessible - one of the many pillars of the child's community that will achieve independence, self-sufficiency and contributing human being. This is also what I am not surprised with when it comes to the oralism movement, the inclusion of sign language so lamented. For those who are bilingual, the ease of access to both languages are nearly negligible.
The quality of education globally is either the same or sub par to the education of the American deaf and hard of hearing children, oddly when the first advent of deaf education was brought to Connecticut by way of Paris, France; nonetheless, we still struggle in the 21st century to be placed on the same level as our peers at any age. The CRPD verifies the importance that we place upon the education of deaf and hard of hearing children, including children with other forms of disabilities; no matter where they are.
The intent of this is to remove the barrier that the majority is the 'norm', the rest of us are just abstracts of the human race that desires 'perfection' and needs to be removed. Really, we need to be responsible for ourselves and how we interact with the global peers and colleagues. The recognition and validation of sign languages in the CRPD will allow worlds to be open (and parents, perhaps, feel more secure in knowing that it is okay, regardless of technology) for deaf and hard of hearing children. We are increasingly global and we need to be able to place ourselves on a pedestal locally to nationally and from there make a difference in the world.
We do have to stop hiding and being ashamed of ourselves; because other folks are ashamed of what we are, not who we are and what we are capable of. It feels like we are using laws to open ourselves up rather than being natural human beings and proving that we are okay. The CRPD places a value on language and culture in which we live in as a minority and remain self-sufficient with the resources and tools that as Americans we take for granted with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, both as amended.
Does it mean that the CRPD is insignificant? No. Its value is greater than the human mind because it addresses the need for understanding, awareness and eventual respect for one another on global scale. Yes, while we do have a disability, our identity is further and strongly defined by our cultural-linguistic ties to the human race.
NAD1st action: http://nad.org/news/2012/7/urgent-support-ratification-convention-rights-persons-disabilities-today
NAD2nd action: http://www.nad.org/news/2012/7/crpd-passes-committee-vote-next-stop-senate-floor
CRPD FAQ: http://usicd.org/index.cfm/crpd-faq
To Be Whole
Currently I am an ASL teacher at a local college and at an high school. I received my Masters in Sign Language Education from Gallaudet University. At home, I am an activist within the community, Northwest Indiana. My son is in first grade and my daughter goes to E.C.L.I.P.S.E. ASL Preschool. Change begins with you and change is effective with a team.