Even though it’s not visible (like many things related to deaf awareness), audism is a major within society and it remains a major issue for anyone who is experiencing some kind of deafness. Yet it’s rarely ever talked about compared other discriminations and prejudices.
Nonetheless, it is worth speaking up about it in order to raise deaf awareness and make people aware of the daily barriers that a person who is deaf experiences.
Regardless of whether you know what is audism or not, this is an opportunity for all of us to do better and reduce the level of barriers that a deaf person goes through on a daily basis throughout their lives.
You can learn more about audism by watching the video below…:
…listen to the podcast here or on your favourite podcast app…:
or read the transcript instead.
Audism is such a big problem in society. It’s everywhere and it does exist, but it’s never talked about on the same level, like racism or sexism or xenophobia, anything like that, but it does exist. And it makes me wonder if it’s because people are not aware of it or they don’t know what audism is, or don’t they think that they are being audists.
Maybe that’s the problem, because I talk about deaf awareness a lot because I feel like there is a general lack of awareness and part of that is the existence of audism.
It’s not always obvious, obviously to see that someone is deaf and it can be sometimes labelled as an ‘invisible disability’, but that doesn’t mean that we should ignore the fact that audism exists, but let’s talk about it, what is it?
What is audism?
So What is audism and where does it come from and what examples are there that happened in the real world? Let me explain that for you right now. So what is audism? Well, it’s a term used to:
“describe a negative attitude, just like discrimination or prejudice or lack of willingness to accommodate against individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing”.
Audism is also a belief that:
“people who can hear are superior to those who can’t hear and a person who follows that belief is called an audist”.
The term audist has not existed forever. It’s only been around since 1977. It was in a dissertation put together by Tom Humphries and he defined the notion that “no one is superior based on one’s ability to hear or to behave in a manner of one who hears”, which is kind of what I’ve been saying to you about it.
And it is a problem in society, and that is something that I have experienced countless times. And I defy anyone who is deaf or hard of hearing who has not experienced that because I feel like every single person who is deaf, who is hard of hearing, who is late-deafened, who is any of these categories and beyond they have experienced some kind of audism.
Examples of audism
So if you’re not familiar with it, what are the examples of audism? Well, here are a few:
1. Unwillingness to assist someone’s auditory need
Number one is the unwillingness to assist someone’s auditory need, especially if you are aware that they’re having a problem. So a common one would be, if someone is talking to you and I can’t, you know, hear that person, that person will be like, “oh, you know what? Don’t worry about it. It’s not important. I’ll tell you later. It doesn’t matter”.
2. Refusing to sign despite knowing how to sign
Number two is the refusal to sign even if you know how to sign. This baffles my mind, the fact that if you know how to sign, but refuse to, I guess even break down a barrier, then connect and communicate, and you refuse to do it.
Hmm. Yeah, not cool.
3. Making an immediate assumption on a deaf person’s general ability
An expectation or assumption on the person’s ability and their education and their ability to do anything in life. So for example saying things like, oh, you can drive, or you can read, or where is your carer? And that assumption where you are limiting their ability because they are deaf. That not really right.
I mean, yes we can drive. We don’t need carers. We can live our own independent life. We can have successful careers, but a lot of people don’t believe that, and they just have that assumption and expectation in their head.
4. Making an immediate assumption on a deaf person’s career and education
Number four, is another expectation, is that their work or their career or their education are limited and that’s a very negative way of looking at it because that’s just not true. Now, there may be times where a person’s education or work, is limited, but that is predominantly because they have been denied the proper services or denied the accessibility feature that they’d been requiring.
They’ve been denied a lot of things or pushed aside or forced to do something else, and that is not their fault. But the immediate expectation is not right to assume that this person’s ability to do their work or their education is very limited.
5. Creating workplace and employment discrimination
Employment discrimination, that’s a common one. It’s like saying, “oh, you can’t do this job because you are deaf”, and I’ve been told that, and yes there are times where, you know, there are things that I can’t do, like use the phone or anything like that, but there can be ways to adjust that.
Maybe you have to change the communication method, or maybe you just have to use technology or anything like that. So there are ways around that, but do you say that you can’t do it because you deaf and it’s clear that you can adjust?
Hmm. That’s a bit audist.
6. Assuming the worst and giving pity
Number six is when you are immediately assuming the worst, when someone is deaf and kind of using the pity feeling, “so you’re deaf? Aw you poor thing!”
And a lot of the time for me, I don’t really expect to have pity. It’s just an awareness, just be aware of it and then if you can accommodate and you’re willing to help, that’s fine, but it’s not about saying, oh, can you look at me and just feel sorry for me?
Nobody has said that, actually, I don’t know anybody that’s said that. No, I just don’t think deaf people ever say that.
7. Developing a patronising attitude
Number seven is to develop a patronising attitude to a deaf person. So a common one would be, “oh, you speak well for a deaf person. That’s good!”
Hmm. I’m not going to say any more than that. It’s just, it’s just a weird thing to say, and again, it’s the expectation that, “oh you can’t, you’re not supposed to be like that for a deaf person, so well done you!”.
8. Used as an ‘inspiration porn’
Here’s a big on: used as an ‘inspiration porn’. I’ve talked about that multiple times before you can check out what I mean by that. But really it’s, an example when it’s like someone saying “oh, it’s so inspiring that you are on the train, travelling to work“.
All I’m doing is on a train, travelling to work. I’m just doing a normal everyday thing. But yeah but “that’s so inspiring”. It’s not cool. It’s not what we’re there for, you know, your inspiration.
That’s not what we’re there for and that, you know, very patronising on top of it.
9. Enforcing oral/spoken languages instead of sign language
And then the final one and it’s kind of a serious problem, actually that happens all the time, and that is enforcing the use of oral languages instead of sign language and just pushing the person to be in a hearing community only, as well and just don’t think about sign language.
Don’t think about deaf community, even if that can help on top of your day-to-day life. But that’s a major problem, and it’s been going on for decades, maybe centuries even, because that has been a problem from a long time ago, from a historical perspective.
I will probably talk about that one day and explain more about that, but that is a problem as a society, but that’s the thing, people don’t see it and some people don’t believe it either.
And on top of that, people act superior. As in “I know better, I think you should do this”, but they can be wrong.
Lack of awareness does not equal to audism
But just like any discrimination, intent has to be considered and must be thought of, because you can’t just automatically assume that a person is audist because they are not familiar with deafness, or they’re not aware of deaf awareness in general. That has to be taken into consideration when talking about audism.
So I’m not immediately assuming that that person is audist. If they say something, you have to look at their bigger package. This could be because of unfamiliarity with, with deaf culture, deaf community, it could be because of unawareness of deaf history, unawareness of sign language, these all can play a part.
My personal audist experiences
As I said, I have experienced multiple audism behavior… audistic?…Is that a word? Audistic?…I’m not even sure if “audistic” is a word but I’ve experienced that a lot. And I can give you a few examples of the most common one I have experienced.
1. “Oh, I’ll tell you later, doesn’t matter”.
That’s a common thing. When I ask someone to say, can you repeat what you’re saying? Or I can’t hear them. Or it’s somewhere like very noisy, but then they say, “don’t worry about it. I’ll tell you later, it doesn’t matter”.
Hmm. Don’t say that!
2. Not accommodating me despite expressing a need for it
Not accommodating even when I express a desire and express my need for some help or accessibility or even suggestions to improve things for everyone, not just for me. And an example would be we’re in a noisy bar, so why don’t we just have a chat and a drink outside in an outside area and whatever?
That’s not always something that is followed along and it leaves me heartbroken and lonely and denied by the people I’m around. And it could be because of work event or it could be a conference. It could be any personal situation.
That is something I’ve experienced a lot.
3. “Oh, you have a lisp or you don’t speak clearly.”
Or even on top of that, “oh, you speak very well for a deaf person”. Whatever angle you look at it, I have seen that and heard it a lot. It gets boring. You know, being involved in speech therapy is something that I have gone through and I hated it and you try to work on it.
And I put myself out there to speak to the world on the internet, or even on stages when I do public speaking, just to get myself out there and to communicate, spread the word and get better at communication.
But then you still get people from both sides saying, “oh you don’t speak very clearly”.
Or “you have a lisp”.
Or “you do speak very clearly for a deaf person, that’s pretty impressive”.
All of these things.
4. Ignoring my struggles
This is something that’s happened a few times, and I just say to the employer, I say, “I can’t use the phone”. But then they say “oh you’ll be fine, you’ll be fine, just get on with it”.
And that means I end up looking like the bad person if the phone call didn’t go well with a client or a customer.
But again, I have expressed that and I have told them, and going back to that earlier point about not accommodating my needs.
And I expressed that, but I’ve been denied.
5. Negative body language
Negative body language is something that I definitely see all the time, because I think I am good at that. I think a lot of people are good at observing body languages if they are deaf themselves, because you use multiple cues to understand what that person was saying and not just orally.
And I see it, I see that negative body language when they are either frustrated or they want to pass me on, or they sigh, or they just have that emotion that you can see on their face or anything. And that is because of something, maybe because I need some help about something or I have expressed a need for something, but then you see that rolling eyes or negative body language and pass it on.
Those kinds of attitudes.
6. Being denied to social gatherings
And then finally social invites, sometimes it doesn’t happen and I don’t get invited because it’s just too difficult for me and they assume that it’s not going to happen, I’m not going to come, but that’s because they’re not willing to make it work.
But then on the other hand, when I do get invited to go to a social event and it’s so hard to cope in the environment, there are for example, no quiet areas to have conversation, just have to be loud, thumping music and that’s very hard for me. So social invitation and social settings are very difficult for me.
And that can cause issues when people are trying to help or not help in this situation.
So audism is a real thing, it’s been there for a long time, every single person that I know in the deaf community and beyond and around that has experienced it, myself included, to this day and I fear that it will never go away, but that’s why I’m determined to keep going to communicate my messages, to share knowledge, to do the public speaking, the workshops and share the content.
And I hope you can help to share this video and share everything I’ve created to make things more aware and to make not just my life, but the people around you, their lives easier and to make society a better place. And unless that’s a bad thing to make society a better place?
Well, we’re going to have problems aren’t we? I don’t really see why that’s a bad thing, but that’s my aim. To make society more deaf aware, more inclusive, and everyone will win at the end of the day. I hope you will help me with that.
If you are a person who have experienced audism, let me know what other things that you have seen so that people can be aware that it does exist in the world.
And it’s not just me, it does exist so if you share your comments then that would be really awesome to see a variety of experiences. That would be really cool.
And if you’re a person who’s never heard of it, never heard of audism before, what do you think about it now? Have you seen it? Have you experienced it and have you subconsciously did that yourself without realising it? And what are you going to take away from this content?
I hope you have learnt something, really appreciate your thoughts on that. Don’t forget to like and subscribe and heart and fist bump, elbow bump, the whole thing.
And I hope you’ll be around next time and I will speak to you again soon.
- What is ‘audism’? Plus my personal experiences of facing audism - October 27, 2021
- ‘CODA’ movie review: my thoughts on the latest deaf movie to be released - October 13, 2021
- Deafness as a ‘hidden/invisible disability’ - October 6, 2021