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Title:How communication technologies have historically isolated deaf people
Author(s):Rogers, Thomas
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Christians, Clifford G.
Department / Program:Communications
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Mass Communications
Education, Technology of
Abstract:This study examines how communication technologies have historically isolated deaf people from mainstream society. Technology is a culturally based activity that is value-laden throughout and the design and uses of communication technology support the cultural values of hearing people. Deaf people are a cultural minority, a language minority with a distinct culture. Communication technology designed solely to the needs of hearing people are at odds with the culture and communication needs of deaf people. Using the ideas and theories of Clifford Christians and John Rawls, the study argues that society is morally obligated to consider the communication needs of deaf people in the design and uses of mainstream communication technology.
Mainstream society has viewed deaf people as handicapped. This study supports the deaf community's contention that deafness is not a handicap and deaf people are disabled only in environments designed solely to the needs of the hearing majority. Examples are presented of societies in which deaf people were not seen as handicapped and were fully integrated into the societies.
American Sign Language defines the deaf community and the ability of deaf people to read and write English is crucial to their access to information technologies. Full accessibility to communication devices and the information they provide require that deaf people have good reading and writing skills. For most of this century, mainstream society attempted to prevent the use of sign language among deaf children. The suppression of sign language was an attempt to prevent the formation of a deaf community and to facilitate the full integration of deaf people into mainstream society. Suppression of ASL and the belief deaf people are handicapped led to the isolation of deaf people in society and the failure of mainstream society to take account of their needs in the design of communication devices. The study calls for the recognition of deaf people as a cultural minority, the full acceptance of American Sign Language, and for society to adopt the principles and ideas of Rawls and Christians in the design and uses of mainstream technology.
Issue Date:1995
Rights Information:Copyright 1995 Rogers, Thomas
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9522165
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9522165

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