Which to hire, a non-deaf or deaf professional?

From 1880 until about 1980, it was rare for a qualified deaf professional to get a professional job serving deaf people. Over the past 20 years or so, the number of deaf superintendents of deaf schools, deaf VR counselors and other deaf professionals employed in professional positions has increased in some states. However, when equally qualified non-deaf and deaf professionals apply for a job that serves deaf people, it still seems that too often the non-deaf professional gets the job.

Some state agencies and organizations still seem to prefer non-deaf professionals, no matter how skilled the deaf professional is. Sadly, instead of hiring deaf staff, some non-deaf administrators hire non-deaf staffs, even though they have no previous experience or education regarding the deaf. Some of these non-deaf staffs try to learn ASL and develop knowledge of deaf history and deaf culture after they get the job, but some do not even make this effort.

This is unfortunate for deaf staff and professionals of course, but it is also unfortunate for deaf students and deaf clients. They often prefer to receive services from deaf professionals instead of non-deaf professionals. Minority group members often feel more comfortable receiving services from a member of their own group than from the majority group.

Below are some reasons that I believe explain why non-deaf professionals still receive jobs that should go to deaf professionals.

  1. Some non-deaf administrators and professionals may have a paternalistic view of deaf adults and believe they are inferior and incapable.
  2. Some non-deaf administrators and professionals may enjoy the privileges, social status and authority they have acquired and may view deaf professionals as a threat.
  3. The non-deaf professionals use their power and influence to keep opportunities and advantages that originally belonged to and for the deaf professionals away from them.
  4. Because non-deaf administrators believe that non-deaf professionals that are fluent in English can more easily communicate with administration, government officials and the non-deaf public. It is a false assumption that deaf professionals are not proficient in English. In fact, most deaf professionals are bilingual and communicate in their native ASL as well as English as a second language.
  5. When government officials communicate with deaf professionals through an interpreter, the officials often feel impressed by the deaf person’s skills. However, ongoing interpreting services can be expensive, and with shrinking government budgets, officials may disregard the enormous benefit the deaf students and clients receive from deaf professionals and choose the “less expensive” non-deaf professional.

I propose that the government empower deaf people and promote their self-determination by returning the authority, opportunities and advantages, including the funding, to them. That way, at least on at least a trial basis, deaf professionals can develop, manage and provide services to their own community. The deaf will spend the money wisely, honestly and usefully. I guarantee that in the end, this will benefit both the deaf community and the state budget.

So, will you federal, state and local government officials turn over all funding for deaf education and other deaf programs to deaf administrators and deaf professionals and give them an opportunity to provide linguistically and culturally appropriate services to the deaf? It is a win/win solution. Thank you.

Of the Deaf People, By the Deaf People, For the Deaf People

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