Thursday, June 28, 2012

NAD Pres. Candidate S.A. Farinha Answers AFA Qs

Audism Free America (AFA) contacted the NAD board candidates with questions - see this link

Sheri Ann Farinha's answers are below.

AFA thanks Ms. Farinha for her prompt and thorough responses.


June 27, 2012

Dear Audism Free America:
Thank you for this opportunity to answer your four questions.  In my humble opinion, those questions should be the prerequisite of any candidate applying for office of the National Association of the Deaf.  Although the majority of the work is may be done by the NAD Headquarters staff, the President and board also advocate to ensure that certain goals are met, and serve as living examples of the NAD’s mission.
1.Please give us 3 examples of how you have worked to end audism in America.
Only 3 examples? Smile.
I have always been an activist and supporter of social justice for all.  I moderated the first workshop on racism that also included discussion on audism at the 48th NAD Conference in Palm Springs in 2006.  Since that time, I have conducted numerous workshops, trainings and online group discussions on diversity issues discussing racism and audism (for example in Sacramento with NorCal Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Deaf People of Color Conference in Oregon).  
The AB2072 bill in California last year was a prime example of audism!  When we led the effort to defeat AB2072, we included Deaf representatives and allies from diverse organizations. As a result, our legislators heard from quite a number of Deaf people.  Our mantra was the term that is being used for the 2012 NAD Conference…”nothing about us without us.” It became our rallying cry throughout the halls of California legislature. We showed legislators that we are a people to be reckoned with. We succeeded in somewhat hijacking and modifying the bill with our amendments.  When the Senators voted on AB2072, some commented on the Floor that, “I learned so much from Deaf people. The next time we have a bill about Deaf people, we should talk with them.” That was unprecedented. AB2072 was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger using a rationale which incorporated our talking points. 
Now we have a new advocacy coalition, “Stakeholders for ASL & English (CAL-SAE)”, which I co-chair. We write letters protesting any misinformation about ASL and Deaf people. Check out:  CAL-SAE has set up a Media WatchDog to alert our community when there are inflammatory misinformation about Deaf people and ASL. Word goes out to communities throughout the State of California to send letters. I use social media to ask those outside the State to also do likewise.  Last year we met to discuss our legislative priorities, and one of the top ones was to combat EHDI and to advocate for legislation requiring bilingual language acquisition benchmarks during early identification and intervention programs.  
When we were pushing for the word -- audism -- to be defined in the dictionary, I was among those who sent in letters.  
2. Please identify specifically how can you lead in a way that NAD will improve its image in taking a strong stand in upholding the rights of Deaf citizens to ASL in the face of mounting oral only forces.
First of all, I believe, “Together, We Can, and We Will.” My colleagues in California will tell you that I make things happen. The oral-only force is rearing its ugly head everywhere now. Now, what would I do to help the NAD to take a stronger stand? 
I would begin with lobbying the federal offices on education and legislators for substantial changes to the federal structure of EHDI (Early Hearing Detection & Intervention). With proper framing, we should be able to convince the higher-ups to move EHDI to Department of Education under OSEP (Office of Special Education Programs) instead of the Center of Disease Control. We have dismal educational outcomes for our Deaf students because they either lack or have impoverished language skills. For us to fix “Deaf education,” we MUST get to the root of the issue. The issue is the language acquisition that often gets delayed in families with Deaf children.
We all talk about the irony of how ASL is good for hearing babies, but ASL is withheld from Deaf babies and their families. I propose we take ACTION by proposing either legislative or judicial action or both!
Now, we should also have a concurrent strategy tackling policy adjustments to IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Some of the adjustments should include inserting language benchmarks and appropriate language and development outcomes for both IFSPs and IEPs. Currently, when a family wants to receive ASL services, they have to fight tooth and nail. It is incredulous that Deaf students may not get tested for language development till they are in second grade.  We know it is then too late! 
Finally, we need to lobby to get Congress to pass the United Nations Convention on Human Rights for Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which supports linguistic human rights, i.e. natural sign language for Deaf people and professionals who are proficient in our language. 
With these legislative mandates in place, it would be easier to convince the medical and service fields as well as families that it is OK to be Deaf!  
I believe that we should collaborate with other organizations to gather educational tools and data supporting our position on bilingual education, the importance of early language acquisition, and positive self-images.  We must have a healthy discourse and an on-going dialogue about the dismal results of oral-only “options.”
We need to show them the benefits of ASL and English bilingualism. The more we emphasize the bilingual approach, the “oral-only” method of communication will become less attractive.   The more we insist on supporting LANGUAGES: ASL and English, the more educated the public will be about the derogatory phrase of “communication options.” Supporting bilingualism -- ASL and English -- we can show it is indeed a win-win situation for the Deaf child and the parents. 
Much more education and training regarding audism is needed. Enlightened people can become allies to eradicate audism and all “isms” This should be the ultimate goal. When we share the same resources, we become all powerful together.
We must become more visible showing the benefits of ASL in newspapers, magazine articles, TV commercials, etc.  Where is the PR showing our side of the story against all those PR blitz about spoken language tools like Cochlear Implants in children.  We need our own PR blitz showing Deaf children using ASL and especially the advantages of ASL for ease in communications and educational achievement.  We should do a better job of celebrating ASL, Deaf Culture and Community. 
One of my goals as President is to see a Political Action Committee (PAC) formed for legislative advocacy and PR blitzes to achieve our commitment to “protect, promote, and preserve our linguistic and human rights.”
“Yes we can, and we will!
3. Please share how you envision AFA and NAD working together in the future.
Both organizations have similar goals to protect and preserve our linguistic rights.  NAD has participated in rallies hosted by AFA. I believe AFA has supported NAD in many of its goals as well.  When AFA and NAD may differ perhaps, is in tactics used to call for attention on some of the important issues, we need to keep our channels of communications open and our primary mutual goals in clear sight.  
Many people continue to misunderstand “audism.” We need an intensive campaign to educate both the Deaf and hearing masses the injustice of audism.  I am open to new ideas!
More importantly, when key issues surface that are blatant examples of audism, and/or any of the “isms,” I hope to see NAD and AFA jointly file complaints, and ask other organizations to join, too.
I think it is really important to mention that we are now at a point in our lives where there are other parts about us that may also be dealing with oppression and discrimination. More than ever, our community recognizes Deaf plus being a woman, or Deaf plus being Black, or Deaf plus being gay, or Deaf plus being something.  It is no longer just “Deaf.” It is now Deaf plus other human characteristics.  We are Deaf/Deaf-blind/Deaf-autistic/Deaf/multi-disabilities who are also women, black, Latina, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and so forth – in short, we are a cross section of all humanity.    Deaf people have been marginalized and discriminated against since the beginning of time, and while the Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities,  section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and other laws have done much to pave the way to improve our access and a mechanism to file complaints when discrimination happens, there still remain prejudices and attitudinal barriers that we need to see removed. 
The whole point about this issue is to raise awareness and open up a dialogue to help us all come to a better understanding of why DIVERSITY is an important word in our vocabulary, and why the different parts of our Deaf Community feel strongly about the other “side” of their lives which may be dealing with oppression.  NAD and AFA can collaborate on greater awareness, empathy, educational materials, media and action to foster healthy and constructive self-perceptions. 
4. Please explain how the NAD election process can be changes to include direct voting by its membership.To change the voting process requires a new motion to change the bylaws at the conference.  Due to the fact that the deadline has passed to submit changes to the bylaws last May, it means that any motions from the floor passed at this upcoming conference, will be in effect the following two years.
I support new ideas seeking to redo the election process to be more transparent and open to allow all members to vote. It is definitely an incentive to become a member and thus to have a voice in the process. 
It will be important to first examine the feasibility, and determine how this can work.  The new board can and should work with NAD Headquarters on this goal. My campaign has sparked a huge wave of positive interest in Deaf Democracy, and I hope to see more people engage in discussions on how to make the elections a participatory process while also having delegates at the NAD conference.  
AFA’s quote: “Let Freedom Roll” ~ absolutely. Freedom starts with us. We must be the individuals we wish to see within the organization we love and are duty-bound to protect forever.
Thanks for all YOU are doing to make this world a better place for Deaf people everywhere.  Again, thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts.  Feel free to contact me again if you have more questions. 

My best,
Sheri A. Farinha
Candidate for President 2012
National Association of the Deaf
Twitter: @NADVOTESheri