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American Annals of the Deaf

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Parents and Their Deaf Children: The Early Years

Kathryn P. Meadow-Orlans,
Donna M. Mertens, and
Marilyn A. Sass-Lehrer

Chapter Seven
Minority Families: Wave of the Future

With Kimberley Scott-Olson

And, uh, my biggest concern was if he wanted to be president, I wanted him to be able to. Simply because I wanted him to have the same opportunities as my hearing children. (Survey 202)
The results of Census 2000 confirm the increasing diversity in the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). Although respondents were for the first time given the opportunity to identify themselves in more than one racial category, 98% of all of the respondents chose only one category. The largest group reported White only (75%); the Black- or African American-only population represented 12% of the total. Asian was the third most-reported race (4%), and less than 1% reported American Indian or Alaska Native. Hispanics, who could put themselves in any racial category in the census, represented about 13% of the population. Forty-eight percent of those who identified themselves as Hispanic also identified as White only, while about 42% chose “some other race.” The Hispanic population is projected to triple, from 31.4 million in 1999 to 98.2 million in 2050, making that the nation’s largest minority group. The African American population is expected to rise by 70% during this same 50-year period.

The significance of these demographic shifts is underscored by the knowledge that ethnic and racial minorities are overrepresented in the deaf and hard of hearing communities compared to the general population (Gallaudet Research Institute, 2001). The Annual Survey of Deaf Children and Youth for 1999–2000 reveals that approximately 45% of deaf children are from an ethnic/racial minority group. The largest proportion is Hispanic (21%), followed by Black/African American (16%). Asian Pacific deaf children make up 4% of the population, and less than 1% are Native American. White only, not Hispanic, constitute 55% of deaf children and youth.

This chapter explores the concerns and issues of minority families with deaf and hard of hearing children. Research that addresses this particular perspective is limited (Christensen, 2000; Mertens, 1998). The diversity in the current U.S. population, the census population projections, as well as the overrepresentation of minority groups in the deaf and hard of hearing population, increase the importance of examining views of parents with deaf and hard of hearing children from these groups.