The lives of deaf people in society are often underestimated, despite various technological advancements and increasing social groups’ tolerance. Nevertheless, this marginalized segment of the disabled community still does not have access to multiple materials due to many challenges throughout their life. For these reasons, I have decided to choose precisely this social group to raise awareness of the importance of full access to sign language through one of my family members who had a hearing impairment for her whole life. I have followed her life for a week to fully immerse her in the daily activities and their difficulty.
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People with hearing impairment make up a significant part of the United States population, and plenty of them are accountable for life-changing inventions and achievements. The sign language, used by each deaf person, was invented by Martha Vineyard (MVSF) to communicate between residents in her community (Deaf History Timeline, 2016). The establishment of French Sign Language (LSF) contributed to creating American sign language (ASL), which is used to this day. Upon founding the first school for deaf people, LSF and MVSL made the contemporary ASL.
The ASL’s digitalization began in the 1960s when Robert Weitbrecht made several inventions for the deaf community. In 1960 he invented the teletypewriter and a Video Relay Service in 1964, enhancing communication for the deaf (Deaf History Timeline, 2016). One of the most crucial moments in the history of deaf Americans is the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disabilities. The recent history-making event happened in 2012 when 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act was approved, mandating all televised materials to be captioned (Deaf History Timeline, 2016). Therefore, the deaf population’s abilities are expanding, allowing them to feel fully capable of all actions.
Despite many upsides and technologies available for deaf people, there are still many critical issues that have existed throughout time, one of them being attending various facilities such as hospitals. Upon arrival at health institutions, citizens with hearing impairment are exposed to high levels of stress due to the risk of receiving inadequate health care, which I witnessed myself. In most cases, there is a communication barrier between the deaf patient and the hospital worker, which increases the chances of illness misinterpretation (Ljubicic et al., 2017). Such issues may become an obstacle to the timely receiving of the treatment and bring serious consequences.
Social isolation is a significant part of individuals with hearing impairment, which my deaf family member repeatedly emphasized. When an emergency occurred, and we faced the need to visit the hospital, no one could effectively communicate, therefore depriving my cousin of the possibility to deliver the message and respond. Such a situation would influence her social anxiety and put her under a lot of stress if I was not there to help, which is disappointing for the system.
The beliefs of contemporary society that all facilities are comfortably designed for people with disabilities are false, vice versa; they need fundamental changes and the adoption of proper communication methods for the unable to hear. Such undermining of this marginalized community is highly upsetting. Common prejudice in modern society is that each facility is somehow adaptive to somebody with disabilities, which is partially true. Many structures are adjustable for groups with physical disabilities or blindness, but not for deaf individuals. Government and health departments fail to include sign language as an essential part of medical education, which creates a political problem of discrimination against deaf people.
Besides, labor discrimination is widely prevalent among individuals with hearing impairment. My deaf family member faces immense challenges in finding a full-time job. In her words, she sent hundreds of job applications; thus, no offer for any position among them. A case of only one representative of the community reflects the biggest challenge for all deaf people – unemployment. Despite immense technological progress and various positions that do not require communication as a primary asset, employers still do not believe in the abilities of someone unable to hear, which raises many concerns. According to 2016 research, over 40% of individuals without hearing do not have a full-time job (Morris, 2019). Therefore, the labor discrimination that I witnessed deprives the deaf community of proper insurance and subsequently receiving healthcare.
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All hearing-impaired community problems are interconnected, and one way or another, comes back to each other, which I was assured of during the week I spent with a deaf family member. Labor discrimination leads to the inability to receive insurance and difficulty to communicate it with the nursing staff. Hard-of-hearing people also often do not receive correct health care due to the staff’s inability to comprehend ASL, resulting in severe consequences. The deaf community is a linguistic and cultural minority marginalized in a large part of the public services.
As the movement for cultural and racial equality is growing, counselors have gained increased responsibility in promoting culturally supported behavior that supports wellness. A multicultural adviser has become an inseparable asset of a qualified counselor, serving as a tool to address social justice issues. Psychotherapists can influence how a person perceives the surroundings and alter their possible racist or discriminatory behaviors. Diversity competence helps encompass all populations that experience health disparities and contribute to securing a culturally equal society.
To summarize, individuals with hearing impairment face significant challenges throughout their lives despite the development of technology. Social anxiety is prevalent among deaf people due to society’s high incompetence and low adjustment of services, including health institutions. The inability to receive high-quality healthcare creates a lot of stress for both deaf patients and incompetent nurses. Therefore, such facilities must be better adapted to the community with hearing problems.
Deaf History Timeline. (2016). Harvard. Web.
Ljubicic, M., Zubcic, S., & Sare, S. (2017). COMMUNICATION BETWEEN NURSES AND DEAF PEOPLE IN HEALTH INSTITUTIONS. CBU International Conference Proceedings, 5, 958–965. Web.
Morris, A. (2019). Deaf And Unemployed: 1,000+ Applications But Still No Full-Time Job. NPR. Web.