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Fallacy: Deaf as Economic Burden | Wanda Riddle | TEDxGallaudet


Translator: Thomas Horejes
Reviewer: Denise RQ [The interpretation
provided for this presentation is live and unrehearsed. Interpreter(s) assigned may or may not have had materials
in advance for preparation. Inaccuracies related
to the content of the material may be due to imperfections
in the interpreting process. This interpretation has not
been reviewed by the presenter.] Hello again. The topic I would like to discuss today is this notion that deaf people in fact
pose an economic burden on society. I believe that to be a fallacy
as a deaf person that we somehow create an environment where lots of money is being
spent on us as a population. [“Hearing impairment and deafness
are serious disabilities that can impose a heavy social
and economic burden on individuals, families,
communities, and countries.”] If we look
to the World Health Organization, we know them to be leaders
in gathering data throughout the world. On their website,
I was able to find information that pertains particularly
to how they view deaf people. They view us
as being deviant in many ways. But interesting, I came across a quote that speaks to the fact
that as a population, we are in fact,
an economic burden on society. And again, this is a source
that’s very reputable and looked to
from people around the world. That particular quote led me
to look at the amount of money that’s actually spent in creating
this economic burden if you will. In my research, I’ve come across
four social institutions that lead to and support this notion
of deaf people being economic burdens. The first is that of the area of research, second is technology, and third, special education. – deaf education is of course a part
of the overall special education funding – and last, social welfare systems, so Security Security and VR
just being a couple of examples. I want to talk today about how money are
spent in these four social institutions, and then present to you
a different perspective on our being
an economic burden on society. Interesting to see, that as an individual, about 300,000 dollars is spent
on a person who is deaf. If you add that up times the number
of deaf people in the world, we can see almost a million dollars
that is being spent on people who are deaf. I really have to question those numbers and understand exactly
how this money is spent and why; which leads me to the discussion
of my first social institution. [“Similarly, the definition
which has dominated medical models of deafness is of deafness
as a pathological condition. Deafness is viewed as deviation
from the normal, healthy state, and emphasis is placed, therefore,
on remediation and normalization, an overcoming hearing loss
to restore ‘normal’ functioning.”] Research has been done
in many different areas, always with the goal
of normalizing people who are deaf. There is this notion that deaf people
are somehow deviant from the norm, that we’re markedly different
from that norm and it’s important that we be normalized
so we’re like everyone else. Quote, unquote “normal”. But does anyone really know
what normal means? And is it worthwhile spending
all kinds of money to ensure we become normal citizens? Those are the kind of questions
that I’ll be addressing in my talk today. [“I’m pleased to present
the President’s budget request for the National Institute of Deafness
and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) of the National Institutes
of Health (NIH).”] If we look at the amount of money
that’s spent on research, we can look at FY2013 budget numbers
to better understand the exact amount. The National Institutes of Health, NIH, focuses primarily on the research
of people who are deaf with communication disorders
being their focus. The head of that research unit
shared publicly their appreciation
of receiving funding in FY13 that amounted to 400 million dollars. 400 million dollars having been spent
on fixing genetic deafness and looking at various auditory
and neurological ways to restore people to a state of normalcy who are deaf. So remember that number:
400 million dollars. Let’s move to the next social institution. [“Many unresolved issues remain
for clinicians as they characterize auditory performance in a newborn
who fails hearing screening, design intervention strategies
to optimize communicative success, and ensure that a “medical home” exists
for the infant with hearing impairment.”] Actually, let me go back
a moment to research. The whole purpose of these fundings
being spent on research is to find deaf infants,
identified early on at birth and to immediately intervene
in their lives by spending money to get them to a state
of being hearing or normal. This is something that the director
of the research center actually stated as being the goal. So now onto the next social institution. The second is one is technology. We know that for cochlear implants, the cost for adults
is about 40,000 dollars, and 20,000 dollars, for children. And of course, that doesn’t include all kinds of rehabilitation
and speech training. And it varies by individual, and I don’t have a specific
in terms of the number of individuals who have been implanted, but we can imagine the numbers
that are out there today, multiplied by 20,000-40,000 dollars each. We can get a sense of the amount
of money spent on this technology, all again, with one specific purpose. And that purpose being
to do everything possible to normalize individuals who are deaf so they can be in the line
of what is normal, within the range of normalcy. So these funds are being spent
to fix individuals, to provide them with technologies,
to make them normal. Let’s move onto
the third social institution, that being one of education. The Department of Education website
has budget-reported, and it is public information. And on that budget,
I was able to take a look at how much money is actually spent
on educating deaf children. It’s 11.5 [billion] dollars;
I want you to keep that number in mind. Now we know not all of those funds
go specifically to deaf education, but I think it gives us a good sense
of how much money is actually spent: 11.5 billion dollars. Now, there are also very specific programs
within those budgets that are line items that are designated
primarily for deaf people. Deaf people in special education settings, we can look at them
in a preschool environment and find that money are spent
in that area that amount to roughly
400 million dollars. So we have a total
of 12 billion dollars being spent predominately on providing education to children who are
within special ed deaf education. Literature shows
that deaf education success in these environments is questionable. So much money is being
spent on speech training, and technological needs in the classroom, on auditory processing,
and auditory training, that the amount of money being spent, may not, in fact, equate to success
as a result of all those efforts. We’ve looked at vocational rehabilitation,
at some numbers on education, and we know that vocational rehabilitation
supports education. In fact, we have about 3 billion dollars
that have been spent in this area. Social Security can be compartmentalized
into two different pieces: SSI, with about 50 million dollars
being spent in that arena, and SSDI, where we have
about 150 million dollars being spent in SSDI payouts. So with all that I’ve shared today
and each of these different arenas, and we’re going to remove
technology from them, because again,
we don’t have the exact figures based on how much money
is spent for cochlear implants. If we look at just
the three remaining sections, we can see that 19 billion dollars
are spent on people who are deaf. So if you take a step back
and hear that number, it certainly does seem as if we are
an economic burden to society. Unquestionably, that night be seeming
to be true based on the numbers alone. But again, it’s important we clarify
what this money is going towards. We understand research
is related to deafness, and we understand that deaf education
and in a special education arena, all of the funds are then, specifically
designated to deaf education, so we could probably say
this is a rough figure in terms of the amount of money
that is spent on deaf people. And I’m not in any way disagreeing
this is an exorbitant amount of money. I am however wondering about
the perspective that’s been used to better understand
how this money should be spent. Again, I believe it comes
from a medical model and an approach of a pathological view
of us being abnormal. Now do we see ourselves as being disabled? Deviant from the norm,
and in some ways, somehow unorthodox, and straying
from what should be normal? Absolutely not! We. as deaf people, see ourselves
as being very self-functioning and secure. But rather the frame we see ourselves in is not from one that we need
to become normal like everyone else – and unfortunately, all of the money
that’s been spent to date has been spent on creating that about us, creating this process
where we can be normalized – but if we shift that focus,
shift that paradigm, I believe we can propose an idea where less funding could be spent
with greater results. My ideas of how we might shift those funds
for a more optimal result is looking at those billions
of dollars that are spent and being used in a different way. Not being used in a way
that would help us become normal as is defined by the larger society, but instead, using those funds
to do research, not on the hearing mechanisms,
on restoring people’s ability to hear, but looking at how we, as deaf people,
as visual individuals, can contribute to the understanding
of the visual nature of who we are to a greater society, to all humankind. That in fact, would save money
as opposed to cost money. And help people better understand
how much we are all alike as human beings. Now let’s look at deaf education. Literature to date has really focused on speech training
and auditory oral training; really focusing
on this idea of dependency, that deaf people are in fact a burden
as a result of their inability to speak. But what if instead, we focused money
on how deaf people can learn in a bilingual, bi-cultural environment, and if speech is accessible,
of course, add that, but let’s approach
education in a different way. By doing so, I think we could see
a heightened quality of life. When the infants
are first diagnosed as deaf, I think very often what happens is the goal is to help them
become hearing, but if we approached this differently,
and provided services and support in a clearinghouse way, that parents who going through
a grieving process with a recently-diagnosed deaf child would get support they need
in their home environment, would have access to cultural information. Everything would come to them
in their home environment and they could access services
and information helping their child to be much more attuned and more capable
of having success later on in life, having that early foundation well-formed. We know the quality
of interpreting services for the students who are
in mainstreamed classrooms is insufficient. Money could be spent to provide
interpreter training programs with the services they need
to better improve the quality of interpreting services that are given to these children
in educational settings. In the last area of technology, we’ve talked about cochlear implants
and other kinds of devices, but what if instead we looked
at technology in a different way, we looked to see a way that manual
and visual tracking could help us better understand how people navigate
the world around them. All the money that have been spent
in certain ways of understanding research could be seen much more differently
if we took it from a visual perspective. Now all this to say, is this the best way
to approach this situation? I propose that it is. I think we could make
people’s quality of life much better, that people’s well-being
as deaf individuals would be such that they would have
self-confidence in themselves, they would see themselves
as equal citizens with everyone else in society. We understand that if people
are given their needs and their needs are met early on in life, they are able to be successful,
have successful careers, pay taxes, and lessen
that economic burden that seems to be existing,
and thereby creating a win-win situation, rather than having
a pathological medical view of us as being economic burdens, better to understand
that this perpetual understanding has been promulgated
by the larger population, and it is indeed, a fallacy. Thank you very much.

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