Monday, May 11, 2009

Response to Wisc. Bill and Cullen's statement

Congrats and thanks to Tim Riker for writing this response and getting it published,0,1555936.story
Success for deaf community
May 11, 2009
This is in response to “Wisconsin could be first to require cochlear implants” (News, April 23). Sometimes the worst things in history have been done with the best intentions.

Lawmakers tend to simplify an issue and say if more children have access to cochlear implants then they would be able to close down the Wisconsin School for the Deaf. The reality is, they are ignoring some critical aspects.

Babies, whether they are hearing or deaf, can acquire language skills through American Sign Language before they can speak. The benefits of early language development from sign language is more consistently successful than relying on an invasive surgery that could cause death or other serious side effects. Sure there are success stories, but what about those children who still cannot understand speech even after years of extensive speech training?

The formula for success of any deaf child must include positive deaf role models and a positive self-identity. This means that schools must have deaf teachers and administrators who can empathize and communicate effortlessly with them. It’s understandable that parents would want their children to remain close to them and to hear and speak like them, but it is dangerous to cling to the false hope that cochlear implants or intensive speech therapy will make their children “whole” again. That puts the child at a tremendous disadvantage and puts him or her through unnecessary risk.

As a Democrat and deaf person myself, Rep. David Cullen (D-Milwaukee) does the deaf community a great disservice when he says, “This bill is going to allow children to keep their hearing, to become members of society, to go to school and keep a job.”That is an insult to me and many in the deaf community because it tells society that unless deaf people can hear and speak, they are unequal, uneducated and unemployed. That is fallacious and his comments only encourage discrimination on the basis of a person’s ability to hear and speak.

I am living proof of a successful deaf person without cochlear implants; I have a degree from Georgetown University, work at an investment bank and am certainly an equal member of society.

—Timothy Riker, Chicago

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