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Community counseling looks at physical, emotional, psychological and social disabilities. Not being able to hear is a physical disability and individuals who have a hearing loss are known as deaf, hearing-impaired, and hard-of-hearing. This physical disability as Macdougall (1991) explains can be considered a hidden condition; it is not obvious and can therefore be misunderstood (613). Peters (2007) says that ninety percent of deaf individuals' parents are not deaf (183). Deafness may include individuals born deaf, whose parents can hear, become deaf after acquiring language, know or do not know sign, and those with cochlear implants (182). I attempt to present a brief overview of deaf history.
According to Lane (1999), some of the social perceptions of Deaf people include being "socially isolated, intellectually weak, behaviorally impulsive, [and] emotionally immature" (35). These descriptions are from a list of professional journals and textbooks that Lane perused. Many traits contradict each other, such as being suspicious and trusting (37). All traits are negative and unfavorable. Van Cleve and Crouch (1989) explain that physicians in medieval Western times viewed deafness as a physical condition and a malady that required elimination (6). Peters (2007) writes that deaf people were frequently misdiagnosed, labeled as psychotic and then placed in asylums. "Their inability to hear and effectively use oral language" was the overarching problem (183). However, Macdougall (1991) states that deaf people's "lack of speech implied lack of language . . . which implied absence of the power to think" (613). All of these viewpoints can be seen as a medical model of deafness that involves using the term hearing-impaired, professional interventions, and medical procedures (Senghas and Monaghan, 2002, 78).
A contrasting and more recent viewpoint Senghas and Monaghan (2002) mention is the cultural or sociocultural model of deafness. This viewpoint maintains that deafness is a human variation and allows for adaptations such as signing (78). Deaf people, Macdougall (1991) reported "were capable of intelligent thought and communication" (613). Wilcox (1989) posits that the deaf community is defined as "a group of people who live in a particular location, share the common goals of its members and in various ways, work toward achieving those goals" (5). Wilcox adds that the community may "include persons who are not themselves Deaf, but who actively support the goals of the community and work with Deaf people to achieve them" (5).
Per Van Cleve and Crouch (1989), the development of cultural communities started with schools for the deaf which brought deaf people into regular contact with one another (10). In America in 1815, Virginia was the first place where a school was established to educate deaf people (21). In 1817, in Connecticut, the first permanent school that led the way for future residential deaf schools was established (29). These residential deaf schools allowed a small proportion of deaf individuals to come to a central place to learn and live, the primary form of communication to be American sign language, teachers who also were deaf, and federal government financial support (30). The schools enabled the beginning of the American deaf community (47). By 1857, nineteen schools were in place and the schools' primary goal was to prepare deaf students to work in society through vocational training (71). In 1864, an all deaf college named the "Collegiate Department of the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb" and later renamed Gallaudet College opened (72). Gallaudet College was chartered and funded by the federal government and deaf students who showed academic ability attended. When deaf women were allowed to attend in 1886, "deaf Americans were in an unusually strong position, capable of shaping and developing a deaf community stronger and more resilient than that of any other country" (86). The deaf had created a community through the building of schools.
With the implementation of schools, Van Cleve and Crouch (1989) state that deaf people
started creating their own associations. Deaf social clubs, state associations of the deaf, religious associations, etc. were created, funded, and controlled by deaf people. "American deaf organizations . . . grew directly from the self-perceived needs of their deaf members" (87). Some of these needs included being able to share experiences, values, and communication methods with one another. One association provided its members with life insurance that deaf people were unable to obtain elsewhere. The National Association of the Deaf started in 1880. This association lobbied for consumer rights, has influence on important issues, and prints periodicals (89). Lane, et. al (1996) discuss that many of these associations were influential throughout the years since their establishment and are active at the local, regional, national and international levels (419).
Integral to the American deaf community was American Sign Language. Peters (2007) responds that without ASL, the prominent feature of what distinguishes the deaf community, the deaf culture and community would end (184). According to Lane (1999), in 1878 a meeting held in Paris by a small group of non-deaf professionals determined that teaching deaf students to speak orally would allow them to fully participate in society (113). In 1880, the Congress of Milan, further encouraged that deaf people were not fit to judge what language they use (118). By 1907, none of the 139 schools for deaf children allowed ASL. Van Cleve and Crouch (1989) discuss that day schools, which sometimes were integrated as a section of the local public school, started to replace residential schools. These schools were inexpensive alternatives and therefore state legislators supported the idea (119). Macdougall (1991) states that oralists believed and still do, that learning the deaf culture limits deaf children from becoming members of the hearing world and ASL takes away a child's motivation to develop speech, lip-reading, and auditory learning. However, the oral method has not proved effective for all students (614).
Per Lane, et. al (1996), in the 1970's, the U.S. Congress passed the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that "require . . . a free and appropriate education to every disabled child, starting" at the age of three (231). With this and the total communication movement, the instruction in schools changed to include oralism with some signing. The laws and the changing school systems has made it difficult for deaf children because "there is no single voice" for them. Many people hold varying beliefs on the best way to educate a deaf child. "Because of the barriers to participation by Deaf professionals, over ninety-five percent of the professionals who make decisions and create programs for Deaf children are hearing" (238). Both setbacks and advances with the deaf are prevalent.
According to Lane, et. al (1996), in 1973, the Rehabilitation Act removed some barriers in the work force. Upon this act, deaf people started being employed by the federal government and corporations with federal contracts. This trend has led to six thousand deaf people working for the federal government, usually in the Department of Defense and the postal service (340). In 1988, the Commission on the Education of the Deaf reported that 100,000 deaf people are underemployed or not employed (342). They attributed this to "a poor command of English and a lack of psychological, social, and vocational development." Vocational rehabilitation counselors were employed to work with deaf youths on transitioning to work or college (343). In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act mandated that all work sites not just the federal ones were prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities. The ADA also established telecommunication relay services for the deaf (341). In 1979, the Bilingual, Hearing and Speech-Impaired Court Interpreter Act required that the deaf have the right to qualified interpreters in U.S. courts (353).
One major political and cultural achievement within the deaf community happened in
1988. Van Cleve and Crouch (1989) explain that Gallaudet University students protested against having hearing administration dictate the fate of the university. This movement was termed Deaf President Now and the students demands were met by administration (171). Deaf President Now gained national recognition and portrayed that deaf Americans "were a mature minority," they could unite on a common issue, and utilize the mass media (174). It further indicated that ASL was the dominant language on campus and in deaf communities and "most deaf people do not lack language skills; many just lack the ability to articulate English clearly" (175). Deaf activism and self-determination was still as active in the late twentieth century as when Gallaudet was first established in the nineteenth century (174). Deaf people realize "that in community they have strength" (171) and can achieve goals.
Barriers and problems remain for deaf individuals. Macdougall (1991) reports that the majority of deaf individuals are reported as having a reading ability at the fourth grade level (615). Lane, et. al (1996) posit that in 1977, about 43,000 deaf people were in need of mental health services and only about two percent received any service (350). As of 1990, only twenty deaf psychologists practiced in the U.S. and many graduate psychology programs would not accept deaf students (351). Although the ADA affirms having an interpreter available for communication purposes, unenforced laws or unqualified interpreters prevent deaf people's access to social services (423). In airports and on flights, the majority of important announcements are relayed on speaker systems and deaf people are often left out of the communication loop (432). Further, deaf individuals from minority cultures and non-English speaking families have difficulty in schools with the English language (164).
In conclusion, deaf individuals have come a long way from the medieval physicians' limited viewpoints about their abilities. ASL is recognized as a language. People acknowledge the deaf as capable individuals who have rights and their own cultural viewpoints. Varying professional viewpoints still exist and services need to be better aligned to servicing this population. Deaf individuals though have much more access and opportunities in this century.