This now famous quote is from my favorite person in Deaf history – I. King Jordan. He became the first Deaf president of Gallaudet University as a result of the Deaf President Now movement in 1988. Before that time, the premier university for the Deaf was led by hearing presidents. While a hearing person can learn much about the Deaf culture and the Deaf community, we can never fully understand the Deaf experience. Deaf people have suffered much oppression at the hands of hearing people for thousands of years before 1988. In fact that oppression continues today and can be seen in recent comments from the Alexander Graham Bell Association as well as in events that have occurred recently at certain Deaf Schools.
Another important quote from I. King Jordan during the DPN movement was this: “The world has watched the deaf community come of age. Together we’ve overcome our own reluctance to stand up for our own rights.” No longer would the Deaf community idly stand by and allow oppression of their basic human rights to continue. ASL – the natural language of the Deaf – is the core of Deaf culture. Language is a basic human right. Without ASL, a deaf child will not develop to the fullest potential or, at least, will experience severely stunted development.
The Deaf community continues to face opposition to the use of ASL. However, recent events – such as an increased awareness of ASL through television shows like ‘Switched at Birth’, protests for language rights at different Deaf schools across America and the rise of Nyle DiMarco – have caused a shift in American culture. This is resulting a greater respect for Deaf culture.
My son was born deaf 8 years ago. We struggled for years trying to discover how to provide for his needs. We lived in an area where there was not a large Deaf community and it was years before we met a any deaf people. Finally, by God’s grace, one day, we met a Deaf man with a big heart. He mentored us – as hearing parents of a Deaf child – in the needs of a Deaf child and in ASL. He introduced us to Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, FL. We moved there in order for our son to attend school at FSDB nearly 4 years ago. He is now in 2nd grade and he is well on his way to discovering his Deaf identity.
FSDB has a rich Deaf history and, in fact, I. King Jordan’s daughter – Heidi Jordan – is now the assistant principal of my son’s elementary school at FSDB. She is a wonderful person and has become a great resource for us as parents. Last year, in 2nd grade, for Deaf History Month, my son did a presentation on I. King Jordan and his famous quote: “Deaf people can do anything except hear.” That video touches my heart deeply to this day and I understand that deafness is no disability. My son has no limits! With ASL, he has language and he will soar!
For the past 3 weeks, parents and the Deaf community have rallied at FSDB in order to bring awareness to the fact that audism has become a problem on the campus of FSDB. This protest rally has also show the importance the ASL in educating our Deaf children. As a result the president of FSDB has acknowledged the problem of audism and commited to combating it on the campus. Further, the FSDB president and Board of Trustees have finally and officially adopted the Bilingual Bicultural educational approach in place of Total Communication! The Bi-Bi approach will begin to be implemented in the Fall of the 2016-2017 school year.
This is a huge success for the Deaf community! More changes still need to occur at FSDB. This is just the beginning. However, these problems have come to light and these changes have begun to take place because the Deaf community in St. Augustine has overcome their reluctance to stand up for their rights! But really, this all started 28 years ago on the campus of Gallaudet University with the DPN movement and protests. I. King Jordan is right – Deaf people can do anything!