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Politics and the Deaf:  Malkowski, Gary


By Sarah Roberts
April 5, 2009

Gary Malkowski: A Pioneer in Politics

Growing up, my family wasn’t the typical football/ basketball watching folk. No our big “super bowl” came every four years, during the presidential election. I was taught that voting and standing up for people’s basic human rights was just as important as brushing one’s teeth in the morning. So when my ASL teacher gave us an assignment to go out and research something that interested us and relate it to ASL and Deaf Culture I immediately began googling “politics.” I started to wonder just how many deaf individuals represented us in government. As far as I could discover on my own, not a lot. But as I searched, one name kept popping up, Gary Malkowski. I thought, who is this guy?

Gary Malkowski is not from the United States, but is in fact a Canadian. Yet he can be seen as a role model for all people who are discriminated against. Malkowski is considered the first politician to be elected who was deaf prior to election and who uses American Sign Language exclusively (www.audism.org). He was also the first parliamentarian to address the legislature using American Sign Language only (www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/gary_malkowski).

Malkowski was born in Ontario Canada in 1958. He went to the E.C. Drury School for the deaf in Milton, Ontario. At the time Malkowski attended it was an oral school, which is a school that tries to teach deaf students how to read lips and speak with their voices (http://deafness.about.com/od/peopleindeafhistory/p/garymalkowski.htm). However, this school is currently a supporter of ASL instruction after the anti audism movements of the 60’s and 70’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._C._Drury_School_for_the_Deaf). As a result, Malkowski had to learn ASL informally (http://deafness.about.com/od/peopleindeafhistory/p/garymalkowski.htm).

Malkowski did end up at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. Here he achieved a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and Social work and a Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/gary_malkowski). It must have been a big culture change for him coming from a community that discouraged ASL and as a result Deaf Culture, to the campus of Gallaudet University which is known for it’s progressive human rights work and demands for recognition of Deaf Culture as valid.
What ever happened to him there he came back to Canada with what appears to be a great sense of purpose. Malkowski began work for the Canadian Hearing Society. Which is a “provider of programs, services, and information for people who are culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened, and hard of hearing and their communities” in Canada (http://www.chs.ca/en/about-chs/about-chs.html). Here he became a vocational rehabilitation counselor (www.audsim.org). He became known for his advocacy work with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities in Canada.

It was in 1990, when his political party the National Democratic Party won a majority, that Malkowski was able to beat out his hearing opponent for a seat in the Provincial Assembly of Ontario. During this legislative period, the first law passed was to allow for an ASL interpreter to stand down on the floor during session (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/gary_malkowski). Malkowski then worked on and passed several laws that addressed disability issues and educational access of deaf people (www.audism.org). Technically he is even the first politician to introduce a piece of legislation in sign language (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/gary_malkowski).
Though he lost 1995, Malkowski continues to advocate for the rights of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. He is now the vice-president of consumer, government, and corporate relations at the Canadian Hearing Society (www.chs.ca). Malkowski is still seen as a hero to many people. Author Richard Medugno even wrote a book and a play about his life (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/gary_malkowski). Gary Malkowski is an inspiration for any one, whether you are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, a hearing person. His ideas that all people deserve equal access to education crosses all these boundaries.

Work cited:

A Brief Biography of Gary. U.S.-Audism.org. Retrieved April 1, 2009

About CHS. The Canadian Hearing Society. Retrieved March 29, 2009

E.C. Drury School for the Deaf. Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia. Retrieved March 29, 2009

Gary Malkowski. Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia. Retrieved March 29, 2009
 


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