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Educational Equality For The Deaf: Why Aren’t Politicians Advocating For Our Students?

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Image source: Getty Images

Deaf and hard-of-hearing children are essential components of our diverse school systems. They bring an exceptional wealth of unique perspectives, talents, and abilities that enhance the educational experience for all students. Nevertheless, despite their critical role in the school community, these children often encounter challenges and obstacles that their hearing peers do not.

Recognizing that these children are just as important as any other student and deserve equal opportunities to learn and flourish is vital. However, it is worrisome to witness a lack of attention and action from lawmakers to ensure that specialized schools for deaf and hard-of-hearing children continue to exist. So, let’s delve deeper into this matter, explore its implications and discover potential solutions.

Rachel Zemach’s Memoir “The Butterfly Cage”

Have you ever wondered why the education of hard-of-hearing children seems to take a backseat to those in power? It’s a concerning trend that appears to persist despite equal access to education being a protected right. The recent passage of the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind bill extension amid anger and hostility is just one example.

Rachel Zemach. Credit: USA Today

Yet, some refuse to let this injustice go unchallenged. Rachel Zemach, a Deaf educator, writer, and passionate activist for Deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults, shares her story in an upcoming memoir titled “The Butterfly Cage.”

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Rachel Zemach’s book “The Butterfly Cage.” Credit: Unruly Voices

Through first-hand accounts from her life as a Deaf person, Rachel delves into the differences in thinking between two major and often conflicting viewpoints on how to educate Deaf children. She also explores how she witnessed the impact of these two different approaches on students.

So, what can we learn from Rachel’s experiences and insights? What changes must be made to ensure equal access to education for all hard-of-hearing children?

The Urgency Of Preserving Deaf Culture And Education

Moreover, Zemach shares her perspective on the challenges facing the Deaf community and their education, particularly in light of potential school closures. Drawing from her own experiences as a Deaf educator, she recalls teaching at a renowned Deaf school in Fremont, CA, where she faced a comparable situation. Despite the school’s profound influence on students, with its exceptional language education and Deaf culture, the administration and staff were fearful of its possible shutdown. However, Zemach firmly believes that the Deaf community can overcome these challenges by leveraging their collective voice and advocating for their needs.

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Arizona School for the Deaf/Deaf-blind. Credit: BoardDocs

Unfortunately, many schools for the deaf throughout the United States face a dire risk of closure. This is mainly due to the increasing number of mainstreamed students and cost-saving measures in schools. To heighten the situation, hearing politicians and administrators lacking background knowledge in Deaf education or personal experience of hearing loss tend to make decisions about what is best for hard-of-hearing children. However, Rachel stresses the importance of preserving the unique educational experiences and cultural settings that Deaf schools offer. These schools have the potential to significantly transform the lives of hard-of-hearing students.

Empowering Educators To Foster Inclusive Learning Environments For Hearing-Impaired Students.

Furthermore, Zemach is a passionate believer in the capabilities of our educators when addressing the unique cultural dynamics of deafness. She suggests that we assign them the responsibility and authority to lead the way in catering to the diverse needs of Deaf students. By building positive relationships between deaf and hearing individuals and creating an inclusive environment for all, educators can have an incredible impact on the lives of the students they teach.

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Photo of hard-of-hearing children and a teacher. Credit: Getty Images

So, why not celebrate and appreciate the invaluable contributions of our educators and allow them the freedom to mold a brighter future for our Deaf youth? The journey towards change must begin with those with the deepest understanding of the issues at hand. Can we afford to overlook their voices and insights?

Transformative Power Of Deaf Education: One Student’s Journey From Isolation To Success

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that the transition to a Deaf school had a profound impact on the lives of Zemach’s students. Within a few months, they were able to shed their social isolation, classroom shyness, and playground ridicule and become academically, emotionally, and socially successful. In fact, they were able to make many friends, learn American Sign Language (ASL), and embrace their proud Deaf identity.

In addition to Zemach’s students, Rachel shares the story of a fifth-grade student who had a difficult time in a mainstream school. Despite severe loneliness and even contemplating taking her own life, this student was able to turn her life around after transitioning to a Deaf school. She received an award and formed deep and meaningful connections with her peers within the close-knit Deaf community.

The Fight To Save Schools For The Hard Of Hearing

The all-Deaf environment played a critical role in their success. In that setting, the children feel normal, communicate easily with their teachers and friends via ASL, and have a positive view of their deafness, which fosters their development.

The politicians debating the fate of ASDB fail to grasp how completely different the Deaf community’s needs are from those of other groups. Their decisions could force the Deaf community to fight again to keep their schools open, which are the bedrock of their society. As Zemach says, “there is simply nothing like an all-Deaf environment.”

Written by Nikiya Biggs | Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram

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Experienced, dedicated, and goal-oriented writer with a flair for producing informative and captivating content. Experience spanning 5+ years in writing includes correct grammar, fact-checking, and adaptability. Throughout my life, I've been exposed to many opportunities. I have played the piano, participated in many recitals, and won numerous awards throughout my life. I have been honing my writing skills for years in my spare time. As an example, I have completed writing exercises and created my own stories in this regard.

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