Understanding Deafness: Not Everyone Wants to Be 'Fixed'

Publication Title
The Atlantic
Publication/Creation Date
August 9 2013
Allegra Lingo (creator)
Ruthie Jordan (contributor)
Alexander Graham Bell (contributor)
Persuasive Intent
Writer Allegra Ringo explores a rally led by Deaf activists against the 'Listening and Spoken Language Symposium', an annual event put on by the 'Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AGB)'. Ruthie Jordan, who runs the grassroots organization 'Audism Free America', helped to organize the protest rally and believes that the AGB's emphasis on "listening and spoken language" is harmful for the Deaf community and that by selling cochlear implants, the organization "[uses] the ears and the bodies of Deaf people to make themselves rich".

AGB is based on the school of oralism, "which aims to educate Deaf children through the use of oral speech and lip reading (as opposed to manualism, which advocates for the primary use of ASL in Deaf education)". Oralism has a controversial and problematic history. Alexander Graham Bell himself was a prominant advocate for oralism, and from 1912 to 1918, acted as chairman of the board of scientific advisers to the Eugenics Record Office.

Ringo states that, "the controversy is sometimes difficult for hearing people to understand. Hearing people often assume that Deaf people would naturally want to take advantage of any method that could lead them to become part of the hearing world — especially cochlear implants, the most advanced hearing technology we have. In reality, that assumption is far from true. To members of Deaf culture, American Sign Language is a cultural cornerstone. Because Deaf children who receive cochlear implants at a young age will likely be educated in the oralist method, they are less likely to learn ASL during their early years, which are the most critical years of language acquisition. For some Deaf parents, that would result in a child who speaks a different language than they do. Understandably, some see this as a loss of culture- one that, in some cases, has been passed down through generations. What may seem to a hearing person like an opportunity may be seen by some Deaf people as a loss."
HCI Platform
Location on Body
Technology Keywords
Cochlear Implant
Marketing Keywords
Audism Free America, Cochlear

Date archived
March 14 2018
Last edited
October 2 2018
How to cite this entry
Allegra Lingo. (August 9 2013). "Understanding Deafness: Not Everyone Wants to Be 'Fixed'". The Atlantic. The Atlantic. Fabric of Digital Life. https://fabricofdigitallife.com/index.php/Detail/objects/2854