Monday, April 23, 2012

AFA's letter to NPR re: 'Redefining Deaf' News Story

23 April 2012

Greetings NPR Ombudsman Schumacher-Matos:

The purpose of this letter is to express our discontent over the April 8, 2012 NPR news story / article "Cochlear Implants Redefine What it Means to Be Deaf."

Audism Free America (AFA) is a grassroots Deaf activist network in the US, which advocates for Deaf American rights, cultural resurgence, and seeks primarily to challenge the ideological foundations of audism in America. Audism is attitudes and practices based on the assumption that behaving in the ways of those who speak and hear is desired and best. It produces a system of privilege, thus resulting in stigma, bias, discrimination, and prejudice—in overt or covert ways—against Deaf culture, American Sign Language, and Deaf people of all walks of life. 

While National Public Radio is a cherished institution in the US and abroad and known for its journalistic integrity, NPR fell way off the mark of balanced and just reporting when tackling the controversial subject of cochlear implants. Not only is the article riddled with falsehoods about the miracles of cochlear implants, it also neglects to cover the recalls, deaths, complications, court cases and fines against cochlear implant corporations.  Furthermore, NPR is remiss by FAILING to examine the HARMS of cochlear implants in terms of language deprivation and overall wellbeing of the child (see

Regardless of whether a Deaf child has a cochlear implant or not, four major international organizations have declared that Deaf children should not be denied the right to a fully accessible signed language (see the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), and the International Congress on the Education of the Deaf (ICED) New Era and Accord for the Future 2010 Agreement).

Unfortunately, NPR compromised its journalistic integrity with the many "wrongs" in this article instead of investigating what it means to be Deaf (past, present and future) and Deaf rights.  Many media analysts have lamented the downgrading of journalist rigor in light of the technological digital age.  It is our hope that NPR will return to being a bastion for truth as opposed to quickly piecing together tantalizing fluff and unjust prophecies. We hope and trust that this one erroneous article is not an indicator that the digital age is redefining what it means to have journalistic integrity.

If you care to learn more about who we are and what we STAND for, please feel free to contact us at audismfreeamerica (at) 

Let Freedom Roll,

Patti Durr, Ruthie Jordan, and Karen Christie
on behalf of Audism Free America