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Disabling vs Enabling:

Teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Carson City School District

Topic:  This week’s tidbit is about “disabling” vs. “enabling”. 

I know that the term “enable” can have a negative connotation.  (The word "enabling" is sometimes used to refer to family members or friends who enable others to continue doing what they are doing or enable them to be dependent on people or vices--but for this tidbit, I want to give it a positive connotation.

Some of our deaf and hard of hearing students have the opportunity to go on a field trip to the California coast this spring with their general education science class.  The class has been studying marine biology and this trip will reinforce learning.  The trip will cost $75.00 for each student.  The teacher has arranged for a fundraiser that each student can participate in if he or she wishes.  It involves some salesmanship.  Some of the D/HH staff was concerned that our students may not be able to do the fundraiser due to communication differences and that Student Support Services should provide the funding for these students to go on the trip.  Since the school district’s policy is that students should not go door-to-door and should not approach strangers, but should only sell to family and friends, it was decided that our students should participate in the fundraiser.  The students asked for a cover letter that would introduce them, state that they were deaf or hard of hearing, and explain the fundraiser.  That letter was provided.  Another concern was raised by some of the D/HH staff that now the students might be associated with the beggars of long ago that would have a card identifying them as deaf, whether they actually were or no, with the fingerspelled alphabet on the back.


We know that the D/HH students have similar cognitive and physical capabilities as the general population of hearing students.  Are we not disabling if we say they cannot participate with their hearing peers solely due to a communication difference?  Are we not disabling the future of our students if we discourage participation due to abuses and injustices of the past? And, are we not disabling if we make excuses for poor performance and behavior in the classroom of these capable students.   They should be encouraged to participate fully in general population activities and understand that deafness, hearing loss, communication differences, need not be disabling. Our role as educators is to enable not disable


As educators, we need to keep deaf and hard of hearing issues in perspective.  When questions or difficulties arise, we must consider which are ordinary childhood, and/or human being issues and which are D/HH issues.  We need to allow all our students to reach their full potential as members of the larger society with all its sub cultures and differences blended into one.  


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