Although there has been a call for equality for all students with disabilities in the arena of education, the fact is that there are still inequalities that exist for individuals with deafness. It was reported September 23, 2013 that the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and Joseph B. Espo, attorney with Brown, Golstein & Levy, LLP in Baltimore, Maryland, "filed a lawsuit against the University of Maryland College Park and several of its officials over the university's long-standing and continuing failure to provide captioning of announcements and commentary made over the public address systems during athletic events at Byrd Stadium and the Comcast Center. The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland." (National Association of the Deaf, 2013, p.1) According to National Association of the Deaf, a new international human rights treaty, and specifically the 'Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) "recognizes the inclusion of sig language and deaf culture in society." (National Association for the Deaf, 2013, p.1) It is related that the CRPD has been ratified in 134 countries since 2006 although it has not been ratified in the United States. In addition, it is reported, "more than 650 U.S. organizations want to change that including the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and the U.S. International Council on Disabilities (USICD)." (National Association of the Deaf, 2013, p.1)
I. What is Required?
In order for CRPD to take effect in the United States there is a need for a 2/3 super majority vote in the U.S. Senate. The Senate held a vote on the treaty in December of 2012 and the vote was lost by a mere five votes. Organizations that are opposed to international treaties battled against the CRPD with a campaign that was misinforming and this assisted in defeating the treaty in December 2013. The Senate however, has the power to schedule a new vote. (National Association of the Deaf, 2013, p.1)
II. ASL: Difficulties in Education
Difficulties that deaf children face in mainstream education are reported to include: (1) acceptance; (2) communication; and (3) frustration. (Britton, 2004, p. 1) Communication is integral in the deaf child's ability in the areas of their social skills and reading ability as well as the degree of residual hearing that is left and the encouragement provided by teachers and parents in addition to the child's willingness to learn. (Britton, 2004, paraphrased)
III. Power Hierarchy
It is reported that one of the primary components of Deaf Studies program "is an analysis of the power structure in the Deaf community." (Kannapell, n.d., p. 1) Wrong (1979) defined power as follows:
"Power is the capacity of some persons to produce intended and foreseen effects on others." He moves on to differentiate intentional from unintentional influence. Intentional influence may be achieved through authority (a contractual acceptance of another as competent to wield power), manipulation (concealed power, persuasion, argumentation), and force (physical or psychic)." (cited in Kannapell, n.d., p. 1)
According to Foucault, power is best described "…through interaction in a multiplicity of relationships." Kannapell, n.d., p. 1) Power is reported to be such that comes "from below as well as above, in a shifting relationship of force and resistance. Foucault encourages us to study the specifics of power relationships within a particular institution at a particular time." (Kannapell, n.d., p. 1) Kannapell (n.d.) states that power "…is best understood by examining the hierarchy of types of people who are most powerful." (p. 1) Kannapell states this hierarchy as follows:
Hierarchy of Power
white hearing men white hearing women minority hearing men minority hearing women deaf white men deaf white women deaf minority men deaf minority women (Kannapell, n.d., p. 1)
This hierarchy of power informs one that from the viewpoint of those who are deaf that the "most salient feature is hearing status." (Kannapell, n.d., p.1) This hierarchy of power informs that the second and third attributes of power are those of race and gender particularly in the area of politics and economics. Kannapell states that just as with any oppressive type structure that individuals on the bottom of the hierarchy are those who are most aware of how this hierarchy of power operates. (n.d., p.1) This hierarchy of power is informative in regards to two existing hierarchies of power and status in the deaf community represented firstly "in the community of hearing people from the educator's point-of-view" and secondly, represented by status in and access to the Deaf community.
IV. Provisions for Deaf in IDEIA
Cripps and Supalla (2012) in their work entitled "The Power of Spoken Language in Schools and Deaf Students Who Sign" report that the enactment of Public Law 94-42, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, amended in 2004, includes 13 specified categories that in which students identified as having disabilities are entitled to receive special education and related services. One of these categories is that of hearing impairment. Raimondo (2010) explains that there are 'special factors' that IDEIA outlines in regards to the language of the deaf child and their communication needs. While IDEIA acknowledges that deaf children have special needs, the provision for the communication and language needs of deaf students "stops short of specifying signed language or ASL." (cited in Cripps and Suppala, 2012, p. 88)
In 1992, the U.S. Department of Education is reported to have set out a guideline that the LRE concept "may not be applicable to deaf students and that a special school (meaning a school for the deaf) may serve as the least restrictive environment for this student population. With this language, the policymakers seemed to acknowledge the strength of schools for the deaf (i.e., being signing schools). However, in practice, an overwhelming majority of deaf students (over 80% of the entire deaf student population in the United States are currently integrated, or 'mainstreamed', rather than being placed in a school for the deaf. The impact of integration is immense as we continue to see a declining enrollment for schools for the deaf (with several closures in recent years." (Cripps and Suppala, 2012, p. 88)
It is reported that researchers have discovered that there is "minimal to nonexistent social interaction between deaf and hearing learners in the same environment. Further, deaf and hard of hearing students in such environments report feeling isolated, lonely, and rejected by their hearing peers." (Reed, 2003, p.223, cited in Cripps and Suppala, 2012, p. 89) Most children are born to parents who are hearing individuals and who generally do not know sign language. In fact, these children make up more than 90% of the deaf student population in the United States. Only the minority of deaf students are born to parents who are also deaf and who have the benefit of parents who know sign language. It is stated that sign language is regularly utilized in the education setting and that deaf students do not have sign language modality in their education that their ability to learn is lost. This is true as well in the area of other communications within the education arena.
V. World Federation of the Deaf
The World Federation of the Deaf is the international non-governmental organization that represents deaf individuals throughout the world. The WFD is a non-profit organization that works for equal opportunity and human rights for those who are deaf and promotes the right of those who are deaf to use sign language in accessing education, information and other areas within their life. Deaf people are able through these tenants to achieve equality in the area of education and all human rights. The WFD has as its proprieties the following:
The human rights of Deaf people and the abolishment of discrimination against Deaf communities and sign languages.
Strengthening associations of Deaf people, and assisting in the establishment of associations where none currently exists.
Strengthening regional work and cooperation. (WFD, 2013, p.1 )
VI. What is the Delay?
The question begs to be asked as to what is the delay in the U.S. educational system in the provisioning to deaf students of communication needs and specifically in the case of captioning of announcements within schools and universities in order to assist deaf students in their educational process? The impact of politics on the education of deaf students is horrendous and without question something that should not be allowed within a democracy. There are those who hotly oppose the U.S. entering into international treaties however, what can be lost by enabling deaf students in their educational attainment?
Summary and Conclusion
Politics has historically and traditionally affected educational provisions and this is the case in terms of captioning for the deaf in schools and universities. However, this is case where common sense should be the guiding factor in the decision to enact legislation requiring captioning of information and communication in schools and universities. For this reason the National Association for the Deaf has rightly filed a suit in this…