Sign or Speech – why the conflict?

Last night, I contributed a couple of comments to a long string of posts on a social media platform for deaf people and – yet again – felt sad at the apparent antagonism of those who prefer to use English (whether spoken, lipread or read) against British Sign Language. There seems to be a perception that the needs of BSL users currently trumps those of people who use English. I don’t think there is any evidence for this, personally. Provision of captions & induction loops, etc far outstrips provision of BSL on screen & in public spaces. Deaf people who are bilingual or have English as their first language (as I do) have many more options when communicating than those who use BSL alone, even with the frustration and exhaustion that communication with unaware people can bring. One of those advantages is being able to share their views in text on social media. I find it distressing to read extreme views that show little acceptance of both the differences and similarities in the barriers we all face. Poor access to language & education for those who were born deaf or became deaf before speaking does not result in lack of intelligence but in lack of the knowledge we all need to function in society. Not having BSL as an option for communication does not result in being somehow not really deaf or in not having communication problems. When face to face, most of us get by as best we can without overtly insulting each other, but the anonymity of social media gives licence to make provocative & antagonistic statements. This is nothing new, of course, we are all familiar with trolling behaviour on all platforms, but it would be good if it was not between those who share many common difficulties.

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