Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, May 11, 2007

What about the deaf?

There have been so many occasions I've had to shake my head, roll my eyes or sigh over something I'm reading or seeing. The reason? What I see or read has, once again, neglected the more than 64 million deaf Americans in this country. Granted, the thing I see or read is aimed at the general audience and doesn't exactly keep in mind anyone in the deaf population. But when it comes to instructions on disaster evacuation, book specials and speaking engagements, I can really shake my head over the whole "hearing particpants only" aspect of it. As an example, I recently came across one book special. Interested parties had a choice of either buying a book or buying a book and a CD, which include even more juicy material for readers to enjoy. Audibly. I pretty much had to cross that off my list because I can't hear a darn thing. I mean, AT ALL. So, listening to a CD is out of the question for me. Ditto knowing what to do in case of flooding, because the evacuation instructions on the news aren't closed-captioned. (I suppose they'd rather have deaf residents drown??)

My constant concern over the exclusion of deaf mothers, deaf readers and deaf residents can come in handy as a writer. Just recently, I've been brainstorming over ideas for an article to pitch to a magazine. I suddenly realized I never thought about an angle on being a disabled writer. Bingo! I could write about how I, a deaf writer, have managed to work in freelancing for lo these 10 years. Or I could write about being a disabled writer and using the Internet to manage my writing career. Or I could write about how I've overcome obstacles in writing realistic fiction, with hearing characters, as a deaf writer. The possibilities can go on.

Being a disabled writer (actually, multi-disabled, as I also have a left hand with only three fingers) also allows me the privilege of broader writing markets to submit to. There are publications for the deaf and disabled out there. As a deaf writer, I wrote for the newspaper, SIGNews, for 3 years. I've also had an essay published in Breath & Shadow, an online literary journal by and for the disabled. There's lots more magazines, newspapers and Web sites out there specifically for my group, all chances of having more work put into print.

On the surface, I don't like the term "disabled." We "disabled" writers are anything but! I know of other deaf writers who have found success in their careers (one deaf writer writes books for a major press!) and even blind, wheelchair-bound and mute writers who STILL get past their so-called "disability" to pursue their writing dreams. In my opinion, "disabled" is an outdated term for those of us who can't hear, can't see, can't walk, can't talk. Why? Because we STILL manage to live productive lives! We still write. We still have children. We still get college degrees, become doctors or lawyers, and we still find a way to interact with the great big world where EVERYBODY ELSE can hear, see, walk and talk just fine.

All the same, being "disabled" hasn't held me back from going after my writing dreams. I may have to conduct interviews by email. I may have to type EVERYTHING up with my one good hand. But you know what? That hasn't stopped me from doing what I love the most: Writing. And it's certainly been a plus when I'm fresh out of ideas of what to write about, or where to submit a certain piece.


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