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I Fill This
Small Space: Writings of a Deaf Activist|
Part II: On Communication and Language
See! See! See! See!
In 1968, the John Tracy Clinic, a prominent oral education academy in Los Angeles, published a widely disseminated pamphlet that addressed parents of deaf children with the title: “Talk, Talk, Talk, Talk.” The materials encouraged parents to continue talking because one day their child would eventually catch on. The following article is Newman’s response to that pamphlet, an article that would propel his career as a writer. To this day, it remains Newman’s most well-known written work.
In medical terms John had what was called ophthalmia neonatorum, an eye infection that left him only 10% vision, mostly in the right eye. The first time John went to school he was amazed to learn that the use of Braille was not only frowned upon but strictly forbidden. “You see,” the school people told him, “Braille becomes a crutch and will prevent you from using what residual seeing you have. By leaning on Braille you will be following the line of least resistance.”
Words were a blur even when a magazine was held close to his eyes but John did not complain. He had faith in the school officials. Did they not have a lot of experience? And the years they spent in college . . . . What’s more their statements sounded so logical such as the following: “This is a seeing world, the kind in which you will have to live. Do seeing people use Braille?” There was even a motto in the principal’s office consisting of four words: See! See! See! See!
John’s parents were firmly behind the school. Yes, they were 100% behind the school because they wanted John to be as normal as possible. Constant exposure to the world of sight, they learned, was important. They even had special eyeglasses fitted out for their son to help increase the acuity of his remnant sight and to make his drooping eyelids less conspicuous. The school taught him how to lift his drooping eyelids so as to appear as normal as possible.
The Deaf American (October 1968).