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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Damned for Their Difference: The Cultural Construction of Deaf People as Disabled

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9. The etymology of the use of the word “dumb” to mean “stupid” is integrally linked to the use of language. It is in the nineteenth century that “dumb” is used in relation to animals to stress the lack of language in “beasts” and their consequent stupidity—“a dumb ox” (Oxford English Dictionary 1969, vol. 4).

10. See, for example, the questions on the 1933 examination paper for the Special Teacher’s Certificate of the Melbourne Teachers’ College (Lewis 1983, 118) where these issues are explicitly raised for discussion.

11. As the work of Friedlander (1995, 1999) and Biesold (1999) has recently shown, although the Jewish holocaust is the most publicized aspect of Hitler’s eugenically inspired policies, Hitler’s programs of extermination and human experimentation also encompassed disabled people of all ethnic backgrounds.

12. It is important to note that although the development and implementation of mainstreaming policies in America and Australia was a bureaucratic matter involving government legislation, “special education” in Britain was left to the professionals, highlighting the distinctly British form of bureaucratization discussed above that involves an alliance between government and professionals in the pursuit of rational administration. As David Kirp notes, the Warnock Report of 1978 and the government white paper of 1980, Special Needs in Education, confirmed “the long-standing perception of British special education as almost exclusively the province of specialists, an institutionally marginal service isolated from ordinary schools and managed by a specialist group.” (Kirp 1983, 78) For a discussion of the politics of mainstreaming in Britain, see Barton and Tomlinson (1984). For a discussion of the American mainstreaming programs and research into their implementation, see, for example, Kirp (1983) and Tanner, Linscott, and Galis (1996).

13. Note that the program was also perceived as a way of dealing more effectively with existing “problems” by employing aides to relieve classroom teachers. Whereas the ministerial review stressed that the prime concern of the Programme would be to increase the participation of “children with impairments, disabilities and problems in schooling in the education programmes and social life of regular schools” and with “maintaining the participation of all children” (Office of the Director General 1984, 8) in these processes, in practice, the orientation was toward an in-class or even “out of class but in-school” segregation not only of the formerly segregated but also of the formerly integrated “problem children.” So the “problem children” became “disabled” and the “disabled” were identified as “problem children.”

14. See, for example, Gregory and Bishop (1989) and Sellars and Palmer (1992).

15. See, for example, Murphy (1991).


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