Georgia Association of the Deaf respond to AGBell’s letter to Nyle DiMarco

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Attn: Meredith Sugar, Esq., President
3417 Volta Place, NW
Washington, DC 20007

Dear Ms. Sugar and AGBell Board:

The Georgia Association of the Deaf is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. We promote the rights of Deaf Georgians and hard-of-hearing citizens. American Sign Language provides us with complete access to communication. We support Bilingual ASL/English education, the highest quality of education for all deaf children and adults in our state.

Just over 100 years ago, in 1913, the great Deaf leader George W. Veditz, then President of the National Association of the Deaf, presented a 14-minute film, “The Preservation of the Sign Language,” that still carries a powerful message. He called ASL “the noblest gift God has given to deaf people,” and asked that we “cherish and protect” it. We are still actively advocating for the right to learn, speak, and teach ASL. Veditz’s film, one of the Deaf community’s treasures, was recognized by the Library of Congress and included in the National Film Registry in 2010.*

After we reviewed both of your letters — “Response to Washington Post article about Nyle DiMarco/Dispelling Myths about Deafness” and “AG Bell Responds to Letters about Nyle DiMarco” — we had to respond. The first letter states that “The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing applauds DiMarco?s achievements and recognizes that American Sign Language (ASL) exists as a communication option for deaf children.” Then your second letter states “AG Bell continues to recognize ASL as a FULLY accessible, visual language.” If you recognize the value of ASL and are advocating for the families of deaf or hard-of-hearing children, then why don’t we see your organization supporting the Deaf community by encouraging parents to use ASL?

The second letter notes that your organization “believes that all deaf or hard of hearing children should receive dedicated, quality services to develop and maintain communication, language and literacy skills.” These services should include ASL for the benefit of deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults. AGBell affirms that ASL is a fully accessible language, yet both letters contradict each other, which makes it difficult to accept your position.

In June 2015, Matthew S. Moore gave a stirring keynote address at the GAD Conference. To borrow his title and theme, we would like to remind you of “the three R?s: Responsibility, Respect, and Reality.”

It is your Responsibility to gather the facts and research all methods of language development for Deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults, including ASL. Your organization should recognize ASL even if it is not a spoken but a visual language. Listen and Spoken Language (your exceedingly misleading term) = Struggle for Deaf and hard-of-hearing children. Many of them have suffered from language deprivation. A good number of those “AGBell alumni” have sent letters to you, but none of them have received a response.

Your organization needs to Respect the Deaf community. Respect for our community and not denigrating us because of our choice to use ASL. Limiting our ability to communicate to spoken language alone does not work. Your organization has not been willing to listen and understand that we have the ability to do many things except hear. Listen and Spoken Language = Contradiction by not listening.

The Reality: Your organization’s name includes the phrase “Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.” But your mission statements and core values are basically for those who have a hearing loss with emphasis on spoken language. Your philosophy of Listening and Spoken Language is an absolute EPIC FAILURE as far as the Deaf and hard-of-hearing who chooses to use ASL!

Sincerely,

Georgia Association of the Deaf Executive Board

Robert Green, President
Wade Doster, Vice President
Shannon Biezenbos, Secretary
Patricia Patton, Treasurer

Cc: Sarah Polus, Washington Post

* “News from the Library Congress”, December 28, 2010. (https://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2010/10-273.html)

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