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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf and Disability Studies: Interdisciplinary Perspectives
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I don’t mean to be highly critical of the WFD. They do the best they can, and I understand that they sponsor two or more people from each poor member country to attend the conferences, so they are making efforts to reduce disparities. At the same time, international conferences and organizations usually are inherently inaccessible to many deaf (and disabled) people. The financial cost to participate is prohibitive, and often the topics presented don’t interest or resonate with people who are not from privileged backgrounds. I know this is the case because I have asked about this, and many people mentioned how disappointed they were that more of the things that concerned them were not discussed or debated.

Attending to the needs of a wider population of deaf people, to tailoring the material discussed to topics that could actually be useful to these kinds of attendees, is vital for scholars, activists, and for the common individual. Admittedly, my background in economic development and political economy especially draws me to consider global dimensions and issues. But my experiences in America, Africa, and elsewhere in the world also have taught me that the absence of people from discussions—academic, political, and community—profoundly shapes our choices and paths, perhaps even more than the presence of those who have the power and opportunity to participate. Striving for greater inclusion and justice (goals commonly sought by deaf and disability studies scholars as well as deaf and disabled people) then must remain the engine that drives our movements and our studies.

The metaphor of intersections is particularly apt for my experiences and perhaps also for a broader approach to deaf/disability work. At the intersections, multiple and sometimes messy factors collide, fuse, move in parallel fashion. Living within the intersections has presented challenges but also rich possibilities for me, including connections to others around the globe and across the spectrum of human diversity.

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