The National Association of the Deaf Clarifies Misperceptions
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD), by issuing this statement, goes on record to clarify its views on the issues raised by an article that appeared in the Washington Post Magazine on Sunday, March 31, 2002, called "A World of Their Own" by Liza Mundy.
Issues raised by the Post story and by reactions to it have to do with public perceptions of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing as "second class" citizens. The National Association of the Deaf, a consumer-led organization representing the interests of deaf and hard of hearing Americans, strongly takes issue with such perceptions.
The greatest limitations deaf and hard of hearing people experience are not inherent in hearing loss itself, but are imposed by others, largely through preconceived notions and misinformed attitudes.
Tens of thousands of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing hold bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees from colleges and universities throughout the country and are successful lawyers, professors, doctors, and mental health professionals, as well as practitioners in many other fields. Many are managers or supervisors of people with hearing. Still others have earned Oscars, Tony and Emmy awards as, respectively, movie, theatre and television professionals.
The National Association of the Deaf, since its inception in 1880, has advocated for the rights of deaf and hard of hearing people to enjoy full access to, and involvement in, all aspects of American society. The work of the NAD Law Center has set major legal precedents, including decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court. The NAD has been active in Washington and around the country in helping to shape national policy across a broad spectrum, including education, employment, and health care. In addition, the NAD has encouraged the development of many of today's exciting technologies that make the lives of Americans, deaf, hard of hearing, as well as hearing individuals, so much better. The NAD also works to preserve and bring greater recognition to American Sign Language (ASL), including the richness of deaf culture and heritage.
The story, called "A World of Their Own" by Liza Mundy, is about a deaf lesbian couple who sought to increase their likelihood of having a deaf child. This story has sparked controversy in the deaf, hard of hearing, disability, and nondisabled communities. Because it was the basis for a second story in a British publication, interest has spread throughout much of the world. These stories have raised questions about bioethics, about the perception that deaf people have of themselves as normal people, and about societal perceptions about individuals with disabilities.
The NAD regrets that the comments of an individual in the article were attributed as those of the organization. The Post story stated that the staff member quoted was expressing her personal opinion. That information, however, was not included in the British story on the subject and has been taken out of context in subsequent stories around the world.
As an organization, the NAD has no official position on this specific issue. The NAD does strongly believe in the right of all deaf and hard of hearing people to full access, participation and involvement in all aspects of American society, including the right to make decisions about their lives, just like any other American.
The NAD has adopted a number of position statements on issues of importance over the years. Such position statements (official opinions) are not adopted lightly, and require the formation of special committees consisting of consumers and professionals with experience and expertise in the topic at hand. An example is the NAD Position Statement on Cochlear Implants, which took two years to develop. Because the issues raised by the story are of emerging importance, complex and far-reaching in nature, the NAD has been exploring ways to address these and related topics.