A Generation of Pioneers

Employment Matters column, i711.com

There’s an interesting pattern among minority groups. Whether the minority is a cultural, racial, sexual, or other group, they all share a constant tension with the majority culture. Living in the minority and dealing with majority culture is never easy, and that pressure often prompts minority groups to be more creative. Minority groups, with fewer people and less money, must come up with ways to do more with less.

That’s certainly true within the deaf community. In the political area, we must compete with other groups to get funding for services like captioning and videophones. That effort has clearly been successful in the U.S., and the American model is now being copied in other countries, notably Canada.

Deaf political activism in national politics has never been greater, with deaf bloggers attending the Democratic convention this year and Deaf Republicans maintaining their own blog. Deaf environmental activism? Check out EcoDeaf.

We have seen amazing innovations in deaf-related media. You’re enjoying one of them now, as you watch this videoblog. Want more? Discussion forums like DeafRead and DeafVideo.TV didn’t even exist 3 years ago.

Deaf filmmakers like D-Pan, Mosdeux and their upcoming Deaf Family show, Julia Dameron and Ann Marie “Jade” Bryan are producing professional work, showcased at deaf film festivals all over the country. Jed and Joel Barrish at DeafNation are touring the world and taking their deaf audience along with them.

There’s innovation in deaf education too – this fall the Las Vegas charter school opens for deaf and hard of hearing students from kindergarten through 3rd grade. The school supports the “bi-bi” approach – bilingual, bicultural – to promote excellence in both ASL and English.

These things don’t just happen by themselves. Each creative effort has a driving force – sometimes it’s a single person and sometimes it’s a team, but what is clear is the deaf community is pulling together creative energies and making things happen.

Deaf leaders have always been with us, and their numbers are growing. Deaf professionals are working at NASA, buying and selling real estate, providing financial services, serving as doctors and nurses. Every Deaf Expo is filled with deaf-owned and operated businesses.

This growth of exciting new ideas demonstrates the vitality of the deaf and hard of hearing community. We are moving forward, experimenting with new technologies and new solutions.

We’ve done this before. An earlier generation seized on surplus TTY machines to build a communication network that served deaf and hard of hearing people in a world dominated by voice phones.

This generation’s pioneers are building on the foundations of past pioneers, and creating new ground for the next generation. The technologies we enjoy are tools, but we in the community are more important than the tools. It’s what we do with them that counts. We are building.

While our progress so far has been amazing, there’s still work to be done. But there are deaf and hard of hearing people ready to answer the call of challenge with impressive, can-do accomplishments.

Related Links:



DNC 2008 – The Deaf Perspective

Deaf Republicans

Deaf Video TV

Julia Dameron

Jade Films