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
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.
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