Oh dear. There seems to have been a terrible misunderstanding. See, when Dr Dornan used the word ‘scourge’, she wasn’t referring to deafness, she just meant polio. This is how far Dr Dornan has backtracked since her little speech, i.e. not very far at all. Even so, she insists that she was misquoted. Funnily enough though, the people behind the awards ceremony took down the youtube video of her acceptance speech for fear that it could “cause offence”, at the same time as Dr Dornan was saying that the journalists had reported her wrong (a reporter who was there later publicly said that they quoted her exactly right, but I digress). Surely, to clear this all up, it would be a simple matter to reinstate the video, with subtitles of course. Telstra? We’re waiting.
What was depressing though, was watching some of the backlash. They acted so surprised. Like they really hadn’t thought that stringing the words ‘scourge’, ‘polio’, ‘eradication’ and ‘deafness’ together in a sentence might upset anyone. If this woman really didn’t know how the deaf community was likely to react, then I don’t know how she can claim to represent the interests of the deaf. And if she did know, then why go out of your way and ruin a perfectly good opportunity for a public speech in order to wind people up? Perhaps, in a twisted logic, she was trying to help, in that the furore over this little incident may have raised awareness of just how touchy this subject can be. Yes, that could be it. She could get her PR people to put out a release saying she was only trying to raise awareness via the medium of controversy. It would be more convincing than saying she was misquoted and then refusing to let us see the evidence for ourselves.
Not to mention those who couldn’t get why deaf people were making such a fuss. A few quotes from a couple of open forums I visited: “nut bags” – in reference to militant deafies, “People being forced to be PC, ridiculous!” – re Dornan’s backtracking, and “I’d be beside myself if I lost my hearing” – a perfectly normal reaction, but then you’d adjust. That’s what humans do – adapt to circumstances. A somewhat enlightening glimpse into a corner of mainstream society. Makes me wonder how people look at me when I’m out and about. Do they see an independent individual or an object of pity? I really hope the former.
Still, I think that’s the same for a lot of people, whether deaf or hearing. All we really want is to be understood, or at least perceived how we want to be. If I worried about what people thought, with my blue glitter earmoulds, my goth-black hearing-aids, my thick stripy glasses and blue walking stick – or at the moment, boring grey NHS crutches – I’d never go anywhere. The hell with it. If I get rich enough, they’ll just call me eccentric.
Meantime, I call on Telstra to release the video – subtitled. It’ll either exonerate Dr Dornan and the deaf community will owe her an apology, or give us a glimpse of a leader of a deaf-focussed charity unloading both barrels into her foot. Either way, it promises entertainment.
Here is one who ‘gets it’: http://theconversation.edu.au/strong-and-proud-deaf-community-has-no-need-for-self-appointed-champions-3875
For my part, I hope I can raise awareness in my own way, whether via my poetry, writing, sign singing, studies, whatever, at least so that when people see me or other deaf people, they see us, and not our lack of hearing.