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Gallaudet University Press

4:8 Friday, August 16, 2002

Who Are the Disabled?

No Definition Works

In Damned for Their Difference: The Cultural Construction of Deaf People as Disabled, authors Jan Branson and Don Miller explain in the preface, “What we are exploring is the discursive construction of a category with shifting referents and shifting significance, a concept that demonstrates par excellence that its meaning lies, in Derrida’s terms, in differance, in the establishment of meaning through the assertion of difference. No finite meaning is ever achieved, but meaning is constantly deferred as people manipulate it for their own strategic ends. The meaning of the disabled is elusive but dramatic, vague in its specificity, and destructive in its application as this label is applied to others and as the disabled are defined by difference, with the boundaries of their identity deferred. It is a label that threatens us all but one that is assumed by the majority of the population to be embodied in others.

Damned for Their Difference offers a well-founded explanation of how the discrimination against Deaf people came to be through a discursive exploration of the cultural, social, and historical contexts of these attitudes and behavior toward deaf people, especially in Great Britain. Read more about how the majority societies around the world viewed people who were different in chapter two, “The Domestication of Difference: The Classification, Segregation, and Institutionalization of Unreason,” and receive a 20% discount when you order Damned for Their Difference.

In The Deaf Way II Anthology: A Literary Collection by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers, editor Tonya M. Stremlau has assembled a remarkable compilation of poetry, essays, a play, and short stories penned by 16 international writers who are deaf or hard of hearing. In her introduction, Stremlau states, ‘Deaf writer’ still seems something of an oddity in the deaf community.” She continues with: “Therefore, one important reason to publish this collection is to raise awareness in both the deaf and hearing communities that deaf people do write. Another is to show how deaf writers portray deaf characters and deaf experiences.

Many of the writers of The Deaf Way II Anthology are well-known for their past publications and have many different things to say about life as a deaf person, yet their experiences are common to deaf people everywhere. They tell of being isolated at (hearing) family dinners or of not knowing what is announced over a public address system. They tell of what it is like to be a deaf writer, including dealing with expectations that they can't write because they are deaf.” Read sample pieces by two of the recognized United States writers, Christopher Jon Heuer and Raymond Luczak, and order The Deaf Way II Anthology.

In a recent issue, Silent News recognizes John B. Christiansen and Irene W. Leigh's Cochlear Implants in Children: Ethics and Choices. “How refreshing...to read this new book very open to current avenues present for a parent, hearing or deaf, faced with the educational rearing of a deaf child. In the introduction, the authors state: ‘The problem is that there are so many different courses of action available that parents often feel overwhelmed with the magnitude of the problem and have little idea about which approach might make more sense,’” writes Silent News' Hannah Merker. Read more about the current state of this controversial technology in chapter five, “The Cochlear Implant Center, Surgery, and Short-Term Post-Implant Outcomes, and order your copy of Cochlear Implants in Children: Ethics and Choices.


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