Written by Elke Weinbrenner, Associate Professor, Liberal Arts, World Languages

Some of the common themes and topics we’ve been discussing here at Harper have been Diversity and Inclusion, privilege, language, pedagogy, and collaboration. It is important that Harper continues to bring speakers to share their experiences from a marginalized group’s perspective. Recently, Marvin Miller from the Deafhood Foundation came to present at the Deafhood and Allies in Creating Dialogues Workshop (he also spoke at Harper in November 2016).

When looking at the title of the workshop, “Deafhood and Allies,” you may think this has nothing to do with you. You may want to consider what you know about deaf history and culture and whether you let biases and myths dictate the way you work with Deaf people. Some of you may ask, “Ok, what is Deafhood? What does this have to do with me?” Paddy Ladd (2003) explains, “Deafhood is a process to decolonize our mind, and spirit from colonialism.” Learn more about Deafhood.

Again, you may be asking, “What does that have to do with me as an ally?” You may be surprised! Let’s look at this question: Do you know the appropriate use of terms such as “deafness,” “deaf and hard of hearing,” or even “hearing impaired” and the diverse needs that accompany these terms? Have you ever thought, “These deaf students’ writing is awful, what is wrong with them?” Or, “Do I really need to caption this video? It will take too much work.” If these questions have ever crossed your mind, then I highly encourage you to attend the next Deafhood and Allies workshop. The issues of colonization, identity of deaf students, and false divisions among educators, language usage in classroom, have been ongoing since 1880. These false divisions maintain the oppression and have internalized biases within both the hearing and the deaf communities to this day, and allies on campus are essential. “An ally is a member of the “dominant” or “majority” group who questions or rejects the dominant ideology and works against oppression through support of, and as an advocate, with or for, the oppressed population.” View a list of qualities of an ally.

I invite you to take a hard look at yourself with your role here on Harper’s campus and how you work with the Deaf students, staff, and faculty. I highly advise you to take the time to watch Marvin Miller’s presentation at Street Leverage, “Deafhood: Liberation, Healing, and the Sign Language Interpreter.” Also, please take a look at the PowerPoint presentation which is also listed on the link above.

Miller’s focus in this video was to explore the Deafhood journey, the internal and external dialogue on what it means to be a healthy Deaf person today, and the role sign language interpreters have and can yet play in that journey; many of the themes in this video were discussed during the Allies and Deafhood workshop. What you can do is to simply replace the phrase, “role sign language interpreters have” with “your role here on Harper’s campus.” I invite you to ask yourself what you can do within your role to reframe your actions for the betterment of the deaf people on campus. Better yet, let’s substitute the word Deaf people to “people with intersectionalities.” Learn more about this idea of intersectionality in the article, “Intersectionality 101: Understanding Your Privilege and Oppression.” I hope this will spark your passionate heart and mind to create a healthy dialogue here on Harper’s campus.

A final closing thought from an attendee at the Deafhood and Allies Workshop, Associate Professor, LaVonya Williams: “As a social justice educator; my goal is to create inclusive spaces to have courageous dialogues from multiple perspectives and lived experiences. I gained such a rich history of the importance of language and culture within the deaf community. As a result of this full day workshop experience; I have an expanded lens and more knowledge about deafhood; oralism; audism and phonocentrism. As a result; I am revising my curriculum to be more inclusive. This was a valuable professional and personal growth experience and I encourage those who want to support an inclusive campus at Harper College to attend this workshop the next time it is offered.”

Related Upcoming Events/Programs/Workshops:

Writing Strategies for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students
In this seminar, faculty will learn different teaching strategies designed to assist deaf and hard of hearing students in their writing assignments in a variety of classrooms. While the seminar will be grounded in a history of ASL and deaf culture in the United States, it will also draw on methodologies from writing across the curriculum principles in order to address the needs and challenges of those students for whom ASL is their primary language. The writing strategies introduced in this seminar will also be applicable more broadly to students coming from a number of writing backgrounds. The facilitators listed below have all trained through DeafTEC at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT.

  • Date: Friday, October 27, 2017
  • Time: 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
  • Location: Building D, Room D269
  • Facilitators: Brian Cremins, English; Jackie Kramp, ADS Program Specialist; Collette Marsch, Physics; Elke Weinbrenner, World Languages
  • CEUs: 0.3
  • RSVP

Micro-Aggressions: Become an Ally for Students with Disabilities
Listen to a panel of students describe how ableism and micro-aggressions affect them daily. Reframe your attitudes about disabilities and become an ally.

  • Date: Tuesday, October 3, 2017
  • Time: 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
  • Location: Building J, Room J257f
  • Facilitator: Access and Disability Services