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Don’t Pull Out the “Deaf Card.” Please.

June 10th, 2014 by | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

Many deaf people often share stories with me about pulling out a “deaf card.”  Pulling out a “deaf card” means asking for accommodations only because one wants to receive special treatment or to be excused just simply because one does not want to do a specific task.  Some deaf people who only speak orally create fake sign language to get out of receiving a speeding ticket.  Some parents of deaf children ask for a free fast pass to skip all the long lines at Disney World.  Some deaf people use their deafness to dismiss themselves from Jury Duty only because serving is boring and not fun.  These are just a few examples of playing the “deaf card.”

Using a “deaf card” is extremely unethical and harmful.  People with disabilities need to understand that we request accommodations simply to level the playing field and give us the same equal access as people with no disability.  If we use the “deaf card,” we are falsely teaching the world that people with a disability are incapable, lazy and unproductive members of society.

When accommodations can be placed but we choose not to participate simply because we do not want to perform the task, we are teaching people that it is OK not to provide equal access to people with disabilities.  For example, when creating fake sign language to get out of receiving a speeding ticket, we are teaching police officers that it is OK not to communicate with deaf people or provide interpreters.  When choosing to be exempted from Jury Duty simply because it is not fun, we are educating the judges that people with disabilities are second class citizens.

No person without disabilities likes receiving a speeding ticket but they accept the consequences and deal with the issue.  If the deaf person hears or reads lips and speaks, it is better to communicate through listening and spoken language.  If one communicates in sign language or struggles to understand what the police officer says, pulling out a paper and pen is a very effective accommodation.  Accepting the consequence and creating a solution to communicate effectively will also help police officers learn to become comfortable in communicating with people with hearing loss.

Many people without disabilities do find that Jury Duty is boring and can create many inconveniences too.  If deaf people choose to be dismissed from Jury Duty simply because it’s boring, it’s really not fair to people without disabilities as many of them would like to be dismissed too.  Because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) exists, deaf people can receive accommodations when serving on Jury Duty, which includes an FM system, interpreters and CART (real time captioning).

Requesting a free pass to skip all long lines at Disney World or other amusement parks simply because one is deaf is extremely unethical.  Deaf people’s legs are not broken.  Deafness does not prohibit us from being able to stand or becoming uncomfortable in the heat or overwhelmed by being surrounded by crowds.  No person without disabilities or parents with children with no disabilities like to wait in long lines, especially on hot days.  Therefore, deaf people and people without disabilities are already being treated equally.  While some say that deaf children are already facing a lot of obstacles in life, and therefore, they deserve a break from dealing with difficulties, we have to realize that many people without disabilities have their own obstacles too.  For example, there are children without disabilities who live with parents who physically or sexually abuse them or deal with bullies at school or live in poverty.

I want people to be clear that I am not saying that we should never request accommodations.  We just need to understand the difference between when we just want to receive special treatment and when we need equal access.  Purchasing tickets for front row seating at a discount price at a theater and requesting to be the first to board on the plane are examples that are considered reasonable accommodations.  Deaf people request preferential seating at theaters because they want to ensure that they can hear their best or see the actors’ faces.  They are asking for equal access to understand the story of the show.  Some deaf people request to be the first to board the plane because they want to have the time to inform the flight attendant that they have hearing loss.  However, I do have a problem when deaf people request a preboarding pass only because they want to board the plane first, and they do not inform the flight attendant that they will struggle to hear announcements because of their hearing loss.

While the ADA has helped provide many people with disabilities equal access to many activities, be productive members of society, and live in a safe and comfortable environment, we still have a long way to go in educating the general population about how to effectively accommodate people with disabilities and also the capabilities and talents that people with disabilities can offer to the world.  In order to educate, we need to be respectful in how we choose accommodations and requests.

UPDATE: Disney World has actually changed their policy this past fall where people with disabilities can no longer get a free fast pass.  Under the new policy, guests with disabilities who request not to wait in lines will get tickets with a return time based on the actual wait for the ride.  Click here to read more information about the new policy.

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