don’t know if any of you have heard about California bill AB2072.  If you haven’t, I greatly urge you to look it up.  This bill will be terrible for Deaf Education, as it places all the responsibility of educating parents about options for their deaf child in the hands of Audiologists.  Don’t look now, but the all the progress Deaf people have made with being treated equally has just been set back 100 years.
I thought the time to be able to say something had passed me by, because the bill was passed in April of this year.  I just found out, though, that they’ve sent the bill back to the Committee On Health for further review.  That review is scheduled to happen on June 16th.  If you feel as strongly as I do about this bill, I urge you to write your State Senator because you can still make a difference.  You can find out who he is by clicking here: http://www.senate.ca.gov/~newsen/senators/senators.HTP, and then clicking on “Your Senator” on the left hand side.  This is the letter I sent:
Dear Senator Huff,
I am very concerned about the bill AB2072, which deals with hearing screening and resources for families of Deaf children.  I feel that there are several problems with this bill, 1: that Audiologists will be in charge of dispensing information to families, 2: while the bill states that all kinds information should be given, it doesn’t specify that the information should be treated with equal weight, and 3: the Deaf Community has not been brought in on this issue.
The job of an Audiologist is to fix hearing problems.  When one medical procedure isn’t working they will frequently fall back on another medical procedure, even if it isn’t best for the child.  Oliver Sacks, in his book Seeing Voices, shows that keeping language away from children harms them developmentally.  Audiologists frequently tell parents not to sign with their children so they will learn to speak faster.  The problem with this philosophy is that speech to a toddler who can’t hear isn’t language.  It’s only speech.  If Audiologists become the prime source of information for families of Deaf children, a situation is created that could harm the cognitive development of Deaf children for generations.  This doesn’t even touch on the emotional harm done by Audiologists who hold Deaf people to a standard they will never be able to meet: that of a hearing person.
I have noticed that the bill states that all kinds of information should be given to parents of recently diagnosed Deaf children.  While I commend the effort to be inclusive, I’m worried that this information will not be given equal weight.  It is too easy to hand parents a million pamphlets while pushing a purely oral agenda as the only option.  This ultimately denies parents the equal information the bill pretends to provide.
I am also upset that the Deaf community has not been brought in on this issue.  I am 100% hearing myself, and I have learned through my association with the Deaf community that I will never know what it’s like to not hear.  The only experts on Deafness are Deaf people themselves, and it worries me that they have been shut out of this process.  I can’t understand why Deaf people weren’t talked to about their experiences with the system or asked to be a member of the committee designing the bill.  It also upsets me that, when the omission of the Deaf community was realized, the bill was pushed through anyway.  I feel that a bill cannot be in the best interests of a community when the community hasn’t been allowed to put forth their opinion.
I realize that you are not serving on the Committee On Health, but I hope you will pass my comments along to someone who is.  This issue is extremely important to me.  I agree with the senate that the current system we have in place could be improved, I just don’t think that AB2072 is an improvement.  Thank you so much for your time.
Sincerely,
Casey Hamilton
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