Tag Archives: deafness

So I’m a scourge, am I?

Well, there was me thinking that I was leading a fairly blameless life, studying an MA, looking after my parents, writing small things here and there, getting involved with arty stuff, running for student councillor at Cardiff Uni (yes, my political career, take two) and well, generally getting on with my life. I had no idea that I was suffering from a scourge, or indeed, that I was a scourge – depending on how you interpret this woman’s comments – as described by someone who just won an award for businesswoman of the year in Queensland, Australia:


Thanks for the boost to my self-esteem! The key quote, I feel, is:

“Deafness is a scourge that can be eradicated and consigned to history, just like polio, according to Queensland’s newly crowned Business Woman of the Year.”

Quite apart from the comparison of a non-life-threatening condition to an extremely unpleasant and life-threatening illness, which is poor taste to say the least, when there are other life-threatening conditions the human race can do without (Tay-Sachs, which has no treatment and kills most sufferers by the age of 5, comes to mind) I feel that this kind of emotionally charged rhetoric against deafness, itself a morally neutral and non-life-threatening condition is really unhelpful, and can only serve to alienate deaf adults who have been living with, and in some cases, thriving with this ‘scourge’.

Another quote I found interesting was:

“Dr Dornan founded Hear and Say after she came across a crying boy who had lost his bus money in 1991.
Due to his deafness, Dr Dornan could not communicate properly with the boy about what was wrong and what she could do to help.
A year later, she founded Hear and Say to teach deaf children how to hear and speak and it is now one of the world’s leading paediatric auditory-verbal and cochlear implant centres.”

To me, this quote would look so much better (and her business maybe more inclusive) if it had gone:

“Due to her inability to understand him, she realised that she needed to go on a deaf awareness course and learn sign language forthwith. When she had done this, she realised that services for deaf children in her area were sorely lacking, and set about setting up a business, Hear and Say, in order to improve the situation, with auditory-verbal services and sign language classes, ensuring all deaf children in her area had access to anything they needed.”

Sadly, t’was not to be. Now we have someone who’s apparently providing services for deaf children who clearly believes they are suffering from a dreadful scourge that needs to be eradicated, a scourge just as bad as polio. (I’ve actually met a couple of people who survived polio, who are now wheelchair-users and lucky to be alive. I think they might disagree.) And she’s just won an award, and been given an opportunity to spout this rhetoric across the front page of a local newspaper. I might suggest that as such a public figure, Dr Dornan chooses her words more carefully, or she might just upset the very people she says she’s trying to help. Oh, wait. She already has. Just google ‘Dr Dornan Hear and Say’. I have a feeling this will be staying with her for a while.

Charlie Swinbourne has a few things to say as well – and check out his much more well-considered and researched response to Liz Jones, as opposed to my midnight rant! http://charlieswinbourne.com/2011/10/12/deafness-should-not-be-spoken-of-as-a-scourge/

Just for using the words ‘deaf’, ‘scourge’, ‘polio’ and ‘eradication’ in the same sentence, never mind the same speech, Dr Dornan, you have at the very least exercised poor judgement. At worst, you’re some kind of post-eugenic nightmare of the deaf community. Congratulations on your award.