This is a question that many do not want to attempt to answer. There are many reasons why doctors, audiologists, speech therapists, “listening and speaking” organizations and other anti-sign language groups around the world do not support bilingualism. Two of the reasons are: sign language and native language. Let’s hear what many have said about some of the reason why they say that visual language should be out of the equation for Deaf/Hard of hearing people:

  1. Many do not want to learn sign language.
  2. Many think sign language, i.e., American Sign Language is not a language.
  3. Keeping Deaf people to be auditory-oriented monolinguals generates billions of dollars for medical and related industries around the world.
  4. The assimilationist philosophy to have Deaf people “invisible” among the society, orally.
  5. Misguided, benevolent thoughts that Deaf people are disabled if they are unable to speak.

There are all kinds of people in the world, but only two basic kinds of perceptual orientations of human beings exist. One is natural auditory perception orientation and the other is natural visual perception orientation. There are two kinds of perceptual orientations of people on earth, Deaf and hearing.

Many innocent and ignorant people, such as doctors, audiologists, etc., label Deaf people disabled because the Deaf people are the most misunderstood and the least understood of all people on Earth.

Why are Deaf people born to be bilingual and why are most not bilingual?

A good question – Why are most Deaf people not bilingual?

It all started back in 1880 in Milan, Italy during the Second International Congress on Education of the Deaf, which was the first international conference of deaf educators (95% hearing). It is commonly known as “The Milan Convention”. After deliberations from September 6 to 11, 1880, the convention declared that oral education was superior to manual education and passed resolutions which had the effect of banning the use of sign language in schools. Since its passage in 1880, schools in European countries and the United States switched to using speech therapy without sign language as a method of education for the deaf.

Yes, Deaf people are born to be bilingual, but as of today, bilingualism (sign language and a written language) has largely banned mostly by medical doctors, audiologists, speech therapists, “listening and speak” organizations, hospitals and hearing device industries. Alexander Graham Bell was the biggest factor in the banning sign language in most Deaf schools in USA and his ideology is still going on strong around the country.

Banning sign language for the deaf is like banning a walking cane for the blind, just for the assimilationist reasons to be invisible as part of the majority in the society.

Do you think a bilingual identity is a civil right for Deaf people?  And do you think that the banning of American Sign Language is a discriminatory attitude that should be illegal?

John Egbert

  1. A Recovered Oralist says:

    Yes, the hearing are always discriminating the deaf in many ways.

    It is their attitude and ignorance.

    It has been going on since the dawn of mankind.

    Oppressors come in many shapes and forms.

    Time to fight back and knock them silly!

  2. Ben says:

    Yo John,

    It seems to me that the banning of sign language has been waning over the last 25 years.
    My old High School was an Oral mainstream only, it is now Total Communication. The other High School was a TC. Both program merge in about 1993. My old H.S is no longer an Oral mainstream. I am sure it is happening in many places.

    Could be that banning ASL in schools are weakening? ICED now recognized ASL, so looks like there are improvements yet to come.

    Should banning ASL be illegal? Interesting…, but not likely.


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