This is in response to Nyle DiMarco’s misleading and divisive rhetoric claiming that deaf children are deprived of language if they do not learn American Sign Language (ASL).
We write as a diverse group of adults, teens, and older children who are deaf but communicate using listening and spoken language. All of us were either born deaf or lost our hearing later. With the help of modern hearing technology, such as cochlear implants and hearing aids, we hear well.
We do not use sign language, instead choosing to communicate via hearing and spoken language. Because we use spoken language, we consider ourselves to be participating members of not only the deaf community but of the entire world. We disagree with Nyle DiMarco’s claim that we have been deprived of our natural language. On the contrary, we have been raised to fluently speak the same language(s) as our families.
We are successful, happy, and healthy individuals who have taken full advantage of the opportunities we have been afforded as a consequence of being able to hear and speak. We attend or have graduated from mainstream schools and universities and work in mainstream settings. Many of us have gone on to pursue higher education and have graduated with honors and awards.
It is not uncommon for us to have learned one or more foreign languages, traveled extensively, studied, or worked abroad. We play musical instruments, sing in choruses, and appreciate all kinds of music, whether listening on our phones, the radio, or at a concert. We have been cast as lead characters in plays, taken dance classes, and enjoy the performing arts. Many of us enjoy public speaking, sometimes addressing large audiences. We have become nurses, engineers, journalists, public servants, physicians, educators, and more, successfully working alongside our hearing colleagues.
Today’s cochlear implant and hearing aid technologies have greatly changed what deafness means to our generation (and those younger) in that learning spoken English is no longer a struggle. Never once has any one of us felt deprived. As a matter of fact, we consider ourselves fortunate to live in a time when scientific advances afford us access to oral communication, and we are grateful every day that our parents made the choice to raise us in the mainstream to use listening and spoken language. The ability of children born deaf to learn to hear and speak will only continue to improve as technology continues to advance, and the ages of diagnosis and implantation continue to drop.
We would like to point out that those of us signing this letter represent only a small percentage of the deaf individuals who have found great success using listening and spoken language. We are not exceptional. There are thousands more of us who utilize technology to listen and speak and who are leading wonderful and fulfilling lives.