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DISABILITY-RESEARCH  July 1999

DISABILITY-RESEARCH July 1999

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Subject:

Re: Another job in Leeds?

From:

Mairian Corker <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Fri, 2 Jul 1999 12:55:26 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (108 lines)

Glenn writes:

>I think employing someone with experience of impairment and who understands
>the poltics of that experience is good.
>
>However, the main problem is that although an able-bodied person might not
>fully understand and know what it is like to be disabled etc, many disabled
>people will draw on contemporary understadnings of disability that will
>exclude others whose identities are more ambigous - for example those with
>chronic illness. In my own research this happened to a man who worked in a
>disability organisation.

I think its probably true that there are many parallels between disabled
and non-disabled people in this respect. Nobody can be expected to
understand everybody'd experience as if they were in everybody'd shoes. It
is sometimes hard to step outside one's own position but there is a lot of
very useful work on reflexivity within anthropology and sociology which is
very helpful here (maybe John would like to come in here?). So when you
write:
>
>In other words they need to fully understand their own position not only
>alongisde able-bodied people (like able-bodied people need to alongisde
>disabled people) but also other people who expereince impairment who may
>want to claim a disabled identity but are not recognised within that term by
>both dsiabled and able-bodied people.

I think this is an important point because it looks at the EFFECTS of
social barriers. But I also think its useful to look at different meanings
of the term 'passing' and its relationship to inequality and the stuff on
disability/impairment/chronic illness. It is in this area that theory can
be useful rather than theory for its own sake.

When Tony writes:

>As a Deafie, I have been insulted once too often with the spectacle of
>Hearing people who hold positions of power in deaf organisations and who 1)
>Do not mix in the Deaf community, 2) do not have much to do with deafness
>outside their jobs, 3) cannot even sign (this is the worse of the insults).
>Of course, the justification is that they have the skills to do the job,
>especially if it is an operational manager, a managerial, or fund-raising
>positions; and they are paid obscene salaries for status and position.

Oh how I agree, but to be absolutely honest with you, I seem to remember
that Doug Alker said at a conference a few years ago that the worst abuses
often come from those who claim to be our friends and those who 'know' a
lot about Deaf issues whilst pretending that power is not important. How
often have I heard the comment 'it's not the right time yet' when I ask
hearing people why they don't make way for suitably qualified deaf people.
That's a bit like organisations that say they are 'working towards equal
opportunities' instead of 'we are an equal opportunities employer',
especially when you look at how long some of them have been working towards
it! One large charitable organisation springs to mind here.

But going back to Glenn's point, I know a LOT of BSL using hearing people
with the most awful attitudes towards Deaf people, and even worse attitudes
towards deaf people, and I have met some wonderful hearing people ..
absolutely right on in their understanding of the issues confronting deaf
people across the board ... but with very limited signing skills simply
because they find signing 'difficult' (and not for want of trying). I think
this is legitimate because if you look at the 'success' of students
learning foreign languages, there are always a fair number who don't
succeed, and the Deaf community do have very high expectations.

I think Deaf people also need to look seriously at how much the disability
movement actually does support them and stop criticising disabled people
for not signing, especially when for some signing will be impossible
because of mobility or visual impairment, for example. And it would be
useful if the Deaf community used a bit of the reflexivity I mentioned
above in asking whether it is always the welcoming place for people who are
not Deaf before it criticises those who don't involve themselves. Things
are not always as black and white as they seem even if Deaf educators would
like us to think they are. My own view is that we should value every little
bit of support we can get, look for people who are good COMMUNICATORS as
well as good signers (I mean how many people do you know who can speak
clearly), and be very careful about those whom we think are our friends.

Best wishes


Mairian


Mairian Corker
Senior Research Fellow in Deaf and Disability Studies
Department of Education Studies
University of Central Lancashire
Preston PR1 2HE

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