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Cultural Misconceptions about Deaf People & the Challenge for the Courts: Part 1: Cultural Misconceptions



Supreme Court of Ohio


This video was developed as a resource for the courts to highlight communication barriers with deaf parties, sign language challenges and the role of interpreters in legal proceedings. The video is presented in three parts: the first part explores language acquisition and the impact of language policy towards the education of deaf people. The second part explores the variable nature of sign language as it is used in the deaf community. And third, the video discusses a number of ways that courts can ensure effective communication with deaf parties by using highly qualified and competent interpreters to allow equal access to justice. Specifically, the topics include:

Part I: Language Acquisition
· Understanding Deafne... [ More ]
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00:00:00Access to justice is a right of all citizens including people who are deaf and hard of hearing. The U.S. and Ohio Constitutions guarantee that all people have the right to understand criminal charges brought against them, be able to assist in their own defense and to have equal protection under the law. Additionally, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that courts take reasonable steps to provide "meaningful access" to the courts and court services, and the law prohibits discrimination based on disability. Certified sign language interpreters play a key role in ensuring that deaf and hard of hearing individual have access to accurate and meaningful communication in legal settings so parties can understand the consequences and options available to them, including the waiver of any rights. The Interpreter Services Program created this video to assist courts in understanding the barriers that people who are deaf and hard of hearing may experience in courts. The video will cover the different methods of communication among deaf people and describe the resources available to ensure effective communication. The Interpreter Services Program has also started a program for the certification of court interpreters to make it easier for the courts and deaf parties to communicate effectively in legal proceedings. Other resources, such as a bench card and a bench book assist courts in deciding the type of interpreter that is better suited for a particular method of communication. It is our hope that this video helps to ensure "meaningful access" to Ohio courts and services for the deaf community. Thank you for commitment to learning more about this important function of the judicial system. The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council is pleased to be part of this great effort to develop this video for the courts in Ohio. As some of you may know, one of the goals of the Council is to impact systems to be inclusive of people with disabilities and we see this project not only as serving that purpose but also to be used as a model in Ohio and other states to encourage collaborative efforts. We anticipate that this joint project will serve as a blueprint for the unique success that can be achieved when Councils take steps to reach out to other community service partners and work to enrich the lives of people with disabilities. During the trial, there may be times when the attorneys need to discuss a point of evidence with me and we will handle that in one of two ways: either I will excuse you from the room if the conversation appears lengthy, or the attorneys will approach the bench and we will discuss the matter right here if the discussion will not be extensive. Without a doubt, Deaf individuals face significant barriers in the hearing world. One of the major obstacles they face to exercise the same rights as other citizens is the unawareness of what it means to be Deaf. Deaf individuals share many things in common with hearing people. However, there are significant and fundamental differences as well. Take for instance the way language is learned. Many people who are not deaf assume that language is learned in the same way regardless of the ability to hear. That is, that these words I exhale, float to your ear, enter your ear canal and vibrate to your brain have meaning, because this is the path that language has taken since you were a child and this is the way that language was taught to you by your parents, your teachers, your friends and your environment. But what if you could NOT hear? What if these sound waves or words did not get to your brain? How would you understand sounds or people? How would you understand meaning? How would you communicate? The view that language is acquired in only through hearing is simply inaccurate and becomes a barrier in effective communication with Deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Deaf individuals have the same capacity to understand meaning, but meaning has to come from grammatical movement of hands, face and body rather than sound waves. Another assumption that hearing people have about deaf individuals is that by placing an interpreter in front of a deaf person, the deaf person is somehow transformed into a person who can hear and who shares the common language, culture and norms of American society. The purpose of this video is to explore a slice of the culture, language, common experiences that challenge deaf people in navigating an institution such as the court system. The video is presented in three parts. The first part explores how language acquisition and language policy have created a closely knit deaf community with its own unique language. The second part explores the variable nature of sign language use in the deaf community as a result of the traditional policies of deaf education. Finally, the video discusses a number of ways that courts can ensure effective communication with deaf parties by using highly qualified and competent interpreters to allow equal access to justice. For those who can hear, there is no conscious attempt to learn English or the rules of proper usage until the child goes to school. By the time a child arrives at school, the child already has a strong language base derived from the act of listening to English and using it. If you can hear, you cannot avoid being exposed to English. You live in a world permeated by sounds and rich language. Language, in a sense, washes over you. The amount of information learned by 'overhearing' conversation cannot be understated. It is how people learn their first language. I was born hearing and became deaf at the age of five. I had a hearing infection as a result of Spinal Meningitis and I've been deaf since then. I was born deaf and both of my parents are hearing. But we don't know why I was born deaf and I do have some residual hearing in one of my ears. I was born deaf and my parents are also deaf. I come from several generations of deaf people. So, it seems to be hereditary in my family. When I was born the doctors did test my ears and they found that my ears had normal functions, but it seems that the auditory connections in my brain are somehow shut off. So, I suppose genetics determined that. Since I grew up in a deaf family, I had normal language interaction wherever I went. I didn't know any differently. That was my childhood experience. Up until about the 1880's deaf education consisted mostly of one on one tutoring. It wasn't terribly formalized. And then Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet met a young deaf individual named Alice and that's how he became involved in sign language and he established a deaf school and their policy was to teach American Sign Language and then some time in the 1880's he established Gallaudet University and their policy was to educate in American Sign Language as well. And then Alexander Graham Bell felt that an education that emphasized speech and lip reading and spoken English was more appropriate for deaf people because he felt that if deaf people used sign language they wouldn't develop English skills. So, he established oral programs across the country and the National Association of the Deaf was upset by this and then a group of deaf educators met in Milan Italy at the Congress of Milan and decided to abolish American Sign Language as a method of education for deaf individuals and the National Association of the Deaf struggled against this for a long time to no avail. Oral Education spread throughout the country and educating deaf individuals in American Sign Language was largely prohibited for a long time. However, deaf children continued to use sign language outside the classroom, in dormitories, at recess. They had to hide their signing from their teachers but they did continue to do that. And this method of educating children continued throughout the 1940's and 50's. Those of us who are born and raised in the United States who hear are exposed to that English all day, every day, and so we acquire it in that natural form hearing it, and mimicking it, and testing it out-you try something and somebody goes, euhh, that's not how you say that and then we get corrected, but we're not sitting in a classroom formally learning that this is how you speak and this is how you discuss certain things. Deaf individuals don't hear, or they hear to varying degrees and so they don't have that same exposure and so English doesn't come naturally to them. They are, in fact, being taught English and for some that's successful and for some it isn't, again depending on how they're being taught. If they're being taught through English, which they can't hear, then it's more difficult, and if they're being taught through sign language, where they can get the concepts but they still might not have as strong an English foundation as an individual who hears it and experiences it and deals with it every day. There are varying estimates, but it's pretty well agreed that over 90% of children that are deaf are born to parents who can hear and most of those parents don't know sign language and are not signing with them from birth. I feel that if we were exposed to two different perspectives instead of just one, maybe they would learn better. Perhaps parents who are clueless about a child who is deaf and later they find out when it's too late and they don't know how to communicate when they go to their doctor or they go to an audiologist asking to fix the problem. Instead of addressing the problem as it should be, finding a way to deal with the child's communication rather than fixing the problem with a hearing aid or a cochlear implant and so forth. That effort to repair-to fix-they overlook the language development part and by the time they realize that they need to develop language, they're already delayed. By the time they're four or five, beginning to read, they are already delayed and they have a long way to go to catch up with they're hearing counterparts. The lack of access to formal language experienced by many deaf people is the result of a number of historical, social, and linguistic factors. These factors affect the fluency of American Sign Language, or ASL, that a deaf person may have. In the next section, we will look at these factors. If a child was caught signing in the classroom, the teacher would get out a ruler and wrap the student right across the knuckles. It really hurt! I believe that we're seeing more variation as a result of that. When all the children were being educated at the residential schools for the deaf, those few children that had deaf parents were able to pass the language along to those who did not have deaf parents. Now when we have lots of mainstreaming happening, there may be one deaf student in that public school who has a deaf parent, they're not as able to pass that language on to all the other deaf students in their classes as when you have a bigger number at the residential schools. So yes, I think that is having an impact on the language used by deaf people. Since the language was traditionally learned from peers, the meaning of signs came from the user or peer 'teacher'. This made language use highly variable. Not only is there variation in ASL but there is also a number of communication methods that have been imposed on deaf people over the years. Therefore, some deaf adults may use a mish mash of methods depending on where, how and by whom they were taught to sign. This wide range of communication methods has tremendous implications for interpreters as not all interpreters will have the range of language skills required to meet the needs of the range of deaf people they will encounter. Next we will take a look at some of the more formalized, but still variable, methods of visual communication that you may still see in your courtroom today.
Note : Transcripts are compiled from uncorrected captions
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Date : 05-19-2011     View : 5,245 Views     Duration : 00:18:33     Size : 1.2 GB    
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