6: What standards should Deaf people use to decide at the polls this Fall?
What issues should Deaf people be concerned about this fall? Here's a roundup of what I think we need to be concerned about:
I fear the No Child Left Behind Act has been a disaster for the Deaf community which will find its legacy written only after many years have passed. It must be changed. Why do I have this gloomy outlook?
The NCLB Act came around the same time that many children who'd had cochlear implants while young hit schooling age. As a result a huge amount of these have been reassigned into mainstreamed classrooms, and cuts to Education in spending bills have meant less and less for services. The effects of this on the Deaf community will be felt; Deaf students will graduate with little to no understanding of how to advocate for themselves, their educational level may be less than average, or there may be some other problem due to the student not having had support of some kind or another which was never addressed. Also, the focus of NCLB on high-stakes testing - such tests already biased towards those whose first language is English - does a disservice to the true assessment of Deaf students.
I think we also need to come together as a country and build a vision of what the future will look like for the Deaf community and for Deaf children. National Deaf organizations need to create a vision for policy regarding Deaf education for the future. Yes, the Deaf population is currently on the decline - but history shows it waxes and wanes in waves. We can set up a system to handle this cycle and take advantage of most recent research regarding Deaf children and all children's education. I'd love to see Deaf schools around the country become bicultural as well as bilingual and start to admit hearing children with a full ASL and English curriculum.
The ADA will not be a battleground for our politicians this year, but it's already suffering after years of attrition from Bush officials. We need a politician who's going to repair the damage that's been done to it by the current administration with the goal of a country that provides an equal opportunity for all its citizens. I still believe Deaf people belong under the umbrella of the ADA, despite being a discrete community with a culture of its own. We have a social disability seriously affected by social prejudice.
We also need to spread rights like closed captioning and access to new areas such as the Internet. The Writer's Guild of America just fought a protracted, many-months battle to get paid for work shown on the Internet. We must not assume that people will "do the right thing." We, too, should begin advocating that Internet materials be made accessible.
Deaf people have specific health care needs, including ASL interpreters at hospitals, which are not being addressed and which are tearing our community apart. We desperately need leadership and support on this issue, as well as to ensure that health plans are unbiased and allow Deaf people to choose what kind of services they need.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
You can check out NAD's list of advocacy issues for other things we should be thinking about when we go to the polls this fall...