Monday, August 18, 2008

Why It's Important for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People to VOTE

This morning I was listening to a very good speech when I heard the words "New Mexico voted Democratic in Presidential Elections for a while until 2004, it turned red with 500 votes."

Just 500 votes?!?

Immediately, what popped in my mind was: "How many of the deaf people are residents in New Mexico?" - then - "What if there was 600 of them and every one of them voted?"

The outcome could have been different!

Even though we are numerous in America, our voting record is low. The reasons for this are as varied as the reasons to why Americans have a low voting turn-out in general. But what you cannot ignore is the fact that we are indeed an existing demographic. We are categorized under Disability, but we often do not view ourselves that way and have lived our life against the currents of oppression to succeed as human beings and as Americans. The Deaf and Hard of Hearing people are especially unique in America not only because they cannot hear, but because they are a linguistic minority. The American Sign Language has opened the door to a world of joy, community and culture, and humanity. And according to data from Gallaudet University, about 1 million people are "functionally deaf" and 10 million are classified as hard of hearing in 2005 (1).

So, think about it. 11 million people. Isn't that quite a strong demographic for a voting bloc? Of course!!

We can use our numbers to our advantage to impact political elections and gain greater clout in lobbying for advances in society that are important to us. Getting American Sign Language recognized as an official language by the US bureaucracy. Improving the deaf education system. The addition of the word "Audism" in the dictionary. Creating stricter standards on qualified interpreting and expanding the field for hearing people. Bettering the Vocational Rehabilitation offices in each one of the states. More deaf people entering the professional workforce, receiving doctorate, law, medical, and educational degrees. Better advocacy and labor union protection for the working-class. Captioned movies being shown in movie theaters. Greater recognition of the deaf people as human beings and NOT as defunct burden on the society. More informed professional medical services for audiology-related issues.

We already are independent, assertive, intelligent, hardworking, and proud Americans. But the world is not a perfect place. We the deaf people experience discrimination due to simple ignorance. Some people think the deaf needs to be fixed. Some are unwilling to give us accessibility and accommodations. Still, the deaf and hard of hearing remain optimistic. I am optimistic. Like Barack Obama said of race relations in America, I shall now dare to dream of a "more perfect union" - only, this time between the deaf and hearing people.

That dream begins with the hearing people looking at the Deaf and Hard of Hearing demographic as a valid voting bloc. When we are able to impact the politics, that's when we'll start getting people to focus on us, on our needs, on what we want as a group.

And that is precisely the reason why if you are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, over 18 years old, and an American citizen... you should vote for yourself and for the other 11 million.

Because when we come together and rise up, that is when the union between the hearing and the deaf will be perfected.



No comments: