The Hebrew version of this article can be accessed on the below link
The Deaf (in Israel) struggle against cutback in interpreting hours
Nena Bar and Boaz Ahad-Haam, two of the Deaf Protest leaders, explain the meaning of the cutback and its impact upon their lives.
By: Nena Bar and Boaz Ahad-Haam
Translated by: Omer Zak
We are deaf in a world of the hearing. The world around us is a world of the hearing. The music uplifts and gets millions around me to dance. American Idol and de Weiss heat the Tribal Campfire. Hearing is not only a cultural issue, is the essence of the hearing people: when a hearing person thinks, he hears a voice in his head and it is part of him.
As deaf persons, hearing is not important for us. However discussing it is substantive, as we deny the substance of the hearing. We see signs – the world is visual, both outside of us and inside our heads. We told the hearing, we can do everything except hear. It is our slogan. However today this slogan is empty.
It is empty when pregnant parents, who find out that their fetus is deaf, get an approval for abortion; a baby who survived the selection process, will get a sweeping recommendation for an operation to repair his hearing which will be fully financed by the State without acquiring Sign Language even when he will not be like an hearing person.
When a deaf woman seeks employment, she is forced to settle for menial jobs or be sentenced to a career without promotions. We say we can do everything, but they do not believe us. They also do not want to believe us. They do not persecute us, but we feel persecuted everywhere. Our refuge is in our community. However, now the external reality knocks on the door.
(Embedded: an interview with Gal Roknian and Tammy Shema explaining the consequences of the cutback.)
Election economics woke us up. So yes, we are dealing with a technical clause, regulation, budgetary process. Until the budget is approved etc. Freezing interpreting services until budgetary approval is a wakeup call. Not sonic alarm, which we do not hear, but flashing in blinding light.
This flash lighted the reality and pointed out a basic fact – we are vulnerable. We do not have the power to determine the means of making the hearing world accessible to us. The same world that insists that we adjust ourselves to its ways. Without basic interpreting services, that meeting with the mortgage consultant becomes a terrible mistake for the next thirty years; the psychological counselling with our children becomes an ordeal in the depths of frustration, the rabbi blessing under the canopy becomes an event bereft of any meaning.
Need to emphasize. We are speaking about 45 hours a year. Every hour is more precious than gold. We speak about a total of half a percent. There are about 8,760 hours a year. Out of them 45 hours make us accessible to the hearing world and the hearing world – to us. This simplified calculation works out to a ratio of about 0.005. Half a percent of our life. So negligible amount of money for the state.
Almost as negligible as we are negligible in others’ eyes. Therefore I am here. Because I woke up: I am not negligible. I shall remind you of it each time you consider worsening our situation and leaving us in need of your favors. We all shall remind you. By means of the protest today and by all means tomorrow.
What is a protest? In democracy, as a government method, there are many ways to influence the decision makers so they make the right decision. Elections, court rulings, professional opinions, the outcome test and the voice of the people.
As a minority group with interests, which are not obvious to the decision makers or contradict their interests, we do not express ourselves and do not show our world. Several years, too many, we let the existing organizations decide for us and instead of deciding for ourselves. The protest is the first step, in which our generation expresses its displeasure.
Continuous obstacle that begins before birth
So that the community of the decision makers will understand and digest the implication of the decisions upon our lives, and so that the general public will “hear” the justification of our requests, we need to explain to them our way of living. As a population, we are few but deafness affects all aspects of our lives. However, in contrast to the medical aspect of deafness, most impact is social. The obstacles which we face are due to choices of the hearing people who are our fellows in the Israeli community, not due to our inability to hear.
When an employer prefers to pass over a deaf person and hire a hearing person, it is because he has a built-in preference to employ someone similar to himself. This phenomenon affects both us and other groups, the disabled, Arabs, women and other minorities, whose differences become an obstacle. Being different has a “price.” When people asked a black hockey player about the racism that he encountered, he replied that a black playing in a white league game must pay a price. We pay the price every day, everywhere.
We understand it because this exclusion stems from the urge to be identical – similar. However, in contrast to other groups, our obstacle is never ending and begins before birth, at home – in our hearing families, who struggle to make us hearing and similar to them – and everywhere else.
In final analysis, only with other deaf, in the Deaf community, we have no pressure or obstacle. While we are satisfied with little and draw our life pleasures from the loves and endless quarrels within our small community; however, to buy groceries in a supermarket chain, we need more than this.
From a simplistic point of view, this situation of social obstacle has two potential solutions. When the social obstacle cannot be removed, the state pays handouts out of its budget; when the social obstacle can be removed, the state enforces. One one hand, financial support to those who are deprived of the ability to independently support themselves. On the other hand, introduction of the deprived into the employment market by encouragement and punishment of discrimination preparators. Also a combination of both approaches is a way that we will be happy to implement. The politicians, who will make speeches, are the ones responsible for regulating the invisible hand of the market and via them we express our voices.
So where do we turn now? We declare the fundamental principles that the Deaf and HOH community demands from now on. Principles that until now we did not express publicly and clearly:
Transparency. Without the ability to know what, who, where, when, how much and why, we are in the dark and subject to the arbitrary decisions that perpetuate the exclusion and our powerlessness.
The Result Test. Decisions are made and progress is made in directions that do not benefit or are not helpful in the long range. As for the community, we feel that we are standing at the same place or even go backwards. Systems through which we pass, become transport systems – they move us forward (kindergartens, through the education system and welfare). None of them passes the Result Test for drawing conclusions for making improvements or changes.
Cooperation. No more decisions about us and concerning us, without our involvement. Sign language. Recognition of Sign Language is the cornerstone of recognition of our humanity. Everywhere we turn from today on, let us remember and remind what are our principles. Only if we are solidified around those principles, will we be able to change our dismal present and hope for a better future for us all.
“Licensed under Creative Commons (CC-BY-NC-ND), see: