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Stereotype of Deaf People

Back in the mid-80’s, as a teenager in high school, a next-door neighbor kid mocked me. He knew I was deaf and so he imitated sign language in order to poke fun at me. He was obviously using a bad stereotype of a deaf person. The stereotype consists of a person who couldn’t hear, couldn’t speak, was stupid, and wildly gestured in a silly fashion according to the norms of hearing society.

The stereotype didn’t fit me. I was deaf, but tried my utter best to blend into the hearing world. I wasn’t mute; I could talk as well as any person with an accent. I wasn’t stupid; I was smarter than the average person. I could gesture like a hearing person, but I didn’t know sign language and sucked at charades. The deaf stereotype seemed totally divorced from the reality that I lived in. My reaction was not to get hurt, but to get puzzled. How could a next-door neighbor be so wrong about me when most of my classmates knew what kind of person I was?

As I think back, I realize that the teenage boy was trying to elevate himself above me. His house was big, but our mom-and-pop motel was bigger. We were “richer.”

Today, my reality is very different. I live in the Deaf world and use American Sign Language. The deaf stereotype is offensive. Deaf people and American Sign Language deserve more respect than that. This mocking of deaf people is still common and is a manifest form of hearing discrimination against deaf people, or in other words, audism. People, both hearing and deaf, need to stop these people who oppress deaf people based on an inaccurate stereotype.

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