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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf Epistemologies: Multiple Perspectives on the Acquisition of Knowledge
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1. Tucker (1998) reports that many of the Deaf families seen by the genetic counselling service offered at Gallaudet University (an American university for the Deaf) want deaf rather than hearing babies. However, in a study of the preferences of 100 Deaf students at Gallaudet, Moores, Miller, and Sicoli (2001) found that 97% reported that the hearing status of a child would make no difference to them. For a study of attitudes in the United Kingdom, see Middleton, Hewison, and Mueller (2001).

2. See Mundy, 2002. Discussing this case, Sparrow (2002) argues that it might be justifi able for Deaf parents to choose to have deaf babies even if deafness is not generally a good because a Deaf parent may be able to be a better parent to a deaf child.

3. Lane, Hoffmeister, and Bahan (1996, p. 405) claim that Deaf people are not impaired because “Deaf people themselves, who surely must know whether they have a grave impairment, say they do not.”

4. My list of potential advantages to being deaf is taken from a survey of the literature. Almost certainly it is not an exhaustive list. A potential worry is that my list of goods in itself builds in “hearing” biases. Deaf people might value different goods, and if so judging deafness against a list of goods complied from commonplace hearing intuitions would be unfair. I accept that it is possible that deaf people value goods that hearing people overlook. However, in the absence of a competing list of “deaf goods,” these hypothetical goods cannot be factored into the discussion here. If in the future someone proposes such a list, I would be happy to add them to my list of potential goods.

5. In 1996, U.S. 17- and 18-year-old deaf and hard of hearing students could on average only read as well as an average fourth-grade student (Gallaudet Research Institute, 1999).

6. Crouch (1997) claims that “considered in the proper light, the decision to forgo cochlear implantation for one’s child, far from condemning a child to a world of meaningless silence, opens the child up to membership in the Deaf community, a unique community with a rich history, a rich language, and a value system of its own.” The richness of Deaf culture is discussed in Lane et al. (1996), especially chap. 5.

7. Desloges (1984) discusses objections to sign language made by Deschamps. As Desloges explains, sign languages can in fact be used in the dark, although the method of using them is cumbersome. To use sign language in the dark, the “speaker” takes the hands of the “listener” and places the listener’s fi ngers in the position for the signs that the speaker wishes to communicate.

8. For discussion of the changing conceptions of homosexuality, see Bayer (1981). For statements by professional organizations condemning “reparative therapy” (therapy that attempts to change the sexual orientation of homosexuals), see Robinson (2000).

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