This ad will run on Sunday during the Super Bowl. I am sooooo extremely excited! I am going to dork out on ASL for just a moment, so bear with me, or just stop reading. This ad is incredible for many reasons, but my favorite reason is this; most people will only meet one or two Deaf people in their whole lives. Perception of the Deaf community has been skewed by prejudices and by poor representatives like Marlee Matlin and Heather Whitestone. This ad does a great job at exposing the Deaf community to the world, even if it is only for 60 seconds, and showing that many Deaf people live very normal lives. Most people don't even know that the Deaf community has a long and rich history and their own culture! I don't think that this commercial will change the world, but if it gets one or two people thinking....cool.
Some interesting facts about Deafness and Deaf history:
-Alexander Graham Bell (hailed as an American hero for his inventions) headed an American Council on Eugenics (cleansing of the races, Hitleresque stuff) and recommended that Deaf people should not be allowed to get married AND that to prevent passing the Deaf gene, they should be sterilized. Many women were sterilized after their first pregnancy without their knowledge or consent by "well meaning doctors" who got consent from the parents
-Over 90% of all Deaf children are born to hearing parents
-Only about 10% of hearing mothers learn sign language (the number for fathers is much smaller). Can you imagine not communicating above a 3 year old level with your child? For their whole life?!?
-Cochlear implants (a surgery that can be done to try to restore hearing) is opted by many hearing parents to try to "fix" their children and to make them more like their parents. Unfortunately, that surgery destroys any residual hearing the child may have, so if the surgery fails then the child is left stone deaf. The success rate is somewhere between 5-10%. Devastating.
-Users of ASL cherish their language, it is one of the foundations for their culture. Most Deaf people do not want to be hearing, they love their deafness and the family that they have within the community. Hearing people don't see the culture, they only see what they consider a flaw.
I really could go on forever, but I'm sure that my sister Meghan is going to give me enough crap about my preachiness, so I'm going to end with a thought. Learning both sides to every story will always work out better for you in the end. I hope that a young mother with a Deaf baby sees this ad on Sunday and doesn't just blindly follow her doctor's advice, but that she explores the other side. Then she will know that real success is possible.