The opening illustrations in author Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway’s new book Signing and Belonging in Nepal portray two drastically different scenes of Nepalis moving through a public place. The first image shows a mother, a father, and a child walking down a busy urban street, with the parents taking great pains to silence their deaf son by preventing him from using his hands to gesture or sign. In the second image, the same family is walking down the same street, but in this instance the parents and the child are happily using sign language to communicate with each other in public. Contrary to the first drawing, the second drawing shows that the bystanders have all stopped what they were doing to gawk at the signing family, looking shocked and displeased.
These images “capture important aspects of Deaf social life in Nepal during the historical period I describe in this book,” notes Hoffmann-Dilloway; “a decade-long civil war (1996–2006) that transformed the Hindu Kingdom into a secular republic. At that time, many deaf Nepalis, particularly those in urban centers, had begun to adopt and promote the idea that Deaf signers constituted a distinct, but marginalized, ethnolinguistic group, identified and constituted by the use of a particular language, Nepali Sign Language (NSL). Within this model, one’s status as Deaf was thus not based on an inability to hear per se but on competence in a sign language and engagement in Deaf social networks. These networks extended beyond Nepal, as local associations of Deaf people formed social, financial, and ideological relationships with a range of international Deaf persons and organizations that had been instrumental in introducing this framework to the country.” Signing and Belonging in Nepal is an ethnography that studies this rich and unique Deaf culture while also contributing to larger discussions about social formation and social change.
New entrepreneurs with disabilities opening businesses are becoming more and more commonplace. Many of these businesses are owned and staffed by deaf people. Deaf people also have taken active roles as leaders and visionaries with remarkable new insights and ideas. These contributions allow deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children born today to have far more access to opportunities than ever before and life options that now are much more varied than in the past.
Still, “not all DHH children will be able to access all of the opportunities that are open to their more typical peers,” states Pamela Luft, author of Promoting Positive Transition Outcomes: Effective Planning for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Young Adults. “Limitations, barriers, and discriminatory attitudes remain among those with whom they will interact in the community, at school, and at work. We also need to prepare them to successfully deal with situations in which these barriers cannot easily be addressed. Some DHH children will face issues that cannot be resolved within the developmental timelines that would most enhance their potential for later success, and these issues will change in response to evolving societal circumstances and values: Each era presents its own particular challenges of equity and access.” In Promoting Positive Transition Outcomes, Luft offers clear and comprehensive guidance for educators and school psychologists creating transition plans for DHH high school students.