Exclusive interviews with contemporary newsmakers                  

Jennifer Sooley
President, Newfoundland and Labrador Association of the Deaf

On April 27, The Telegram (Newfoundland and Labrador’s major newspaper) published an article by Alisha Morrissey, titled “Eradicating deafness” and subtitled “School for the hearing impaired could one day be out of business.” The article presented the views of ENT/cochlear-implant surgeon Dr. Tony Batten, without making any real attempt to present a balanced view, publishing one-sided statements that many readers saw as indicative of outrageous bias. This was how the article began:

The only cochlear implant surgeon in this province says deafness is a disability which is being eradicated in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dr. Tony Batten, an ear, nose and throat surgeon, who has helped many hearing impaired and deaf people get their hearing back, says the technology available now, as well as at-birth screening for every child is resulting in incredibly low rates of deafness.

One of the results of such advances though may be the closure of the Newfoundland School for the Deaf on Topsail Road in St. John’s.

“We don’t have any children now going to the school for the deaf,” Batten says, explaining that children who are born deaf have a good chance at hearing if they get an implant early in life.

“The school for the deaf is being phased out,” he says. “Children (with implants they get better incomes when they graduate, they get higher levels of learning, they integrate into society.”

So sign language is a dying language. It’s only for the older people who are beyond the cochlear implant years now.

“It’s interesting because it’s a dying culture and it’s kind of part of our past now.”

The article drew emotional reactions from readers; online responses ran to a whopping 26 pages' worth. Cochlear-implant advocates, predictably enough, extolled Dr. Batten for telling the truth that Deaf Culture supporters don’t want to hear. One reader called him a “saint.” Another called him a “miracle worker.” Deaf advocates, persons who had had unsuccessful experuences with implants, and hearing folks were furious, and expressed their disgust with Dr. Batten’s views, the language used in the article, and what they perceived at the reporter’s ignorance and lack of respect for the Deaf community.

On May 4, a new article by Morrissey, “I am a capital D Deaf: Advocates want better services for the deaf, not just cochlear implants,” appeared on the front page of The Telegram. Jennifer Sooley, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of the Deaf, and Stephen Kirby, acting president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Deaf Sports Association, were photographed and quoted, taking the opportunity to present their views. They criticized the lack of services and governmental crackdown on provincial schools for the deaf, its unethical promotion of implants and mainstreaming as the only options. Sooley and Kirby encouraged parents of deaf children, whether or not they had chosen implants, to learn sign language, and pointed out that grassroots-Deaf people using ASL (or another sign language) as their everyday language can and do succeed—without implants and mainstreaming.

Sooley tells her story in the June issue of DEAF LIFE. The Deaf community of Newfiundland and Labrador deals with many of the same problems we have in the U.S.A., and some problems specific to theregion, such as isolated and scattered Deaf population and a repressive government policy that is blatantly anti-Deaf.

The battle goes on, and will continue, but it’s comforting to know that leaders like Sooley are insisting on equal respect, the right to be seen, and the right to be heard.

Deaf Person of the Year
Robert Davila
John Yeh
Luke Adams
Robert Davila
John Yeh
Luke Adams
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2019
January 2019
February 2019
March 2019
April 2019
May 2019
June 2018
Laurene E. Simms -  Deaf Person of Year phototab
Nadmionor Caisano phototab
Storm Smith phototab
Robb Dooling phototab
July 2019
August 2019
September 2019
October 2019
November 2019
December 2019
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2018
January 2018
February 2018
March 2018
April 2018
May 2018
June 2018
July 2018
August 2018
September 2018
October 2018
November 2018
December 2018
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2017
January 2017
February 2017
March 2017
April 2017
May 2017
June 2017
July 2017
August 2017
September 2017
October 2017
November 2017
December 2017
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2016
January 2016
February 2016
March 2016
April 2016
May 2016
June 2016
July 2016
August 2016
September 2016
October 2016
November 2016
December 2016
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2015
January 2015
February 2015
March 2015
April 2015
May 2015
June 2015
July 2015
August 2015
September 2015
October 2015
November 2015
December 2015
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2014
January 2014
February 2014
March 2014
April 2014
May 2014
June 2014
July 2014
August 2014
September 2014
October 2014
November 2014
December 2014
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2013
January 2013
February 2013
March 2013
April 2013
May 2013
June 2013
John Yeh
July 2013
August 2013
September 2013
October 2013
November 2013
December 2013
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2012
January 2012
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
John Yeh
July 2012
August 2012
September 2012
October 2012
November 2012
December 2012
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2011
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
John Yeh
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2010
January 2010
February 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
John Yeh
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2009
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
John Yeh
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2008
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
Robert Davila
Kevin Frost
Ed Bosson
Leon Lim
John Yeh
Marlee Matin
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2007
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
Robert R. Davila
Lizzie Sorkin
E. Lynn Jacobowitz
Joey Baer
Donald Tinsley, Sr.
Howie Seago
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
Bernard Bragg
Alice Hagemeyer
Carole Lazorisak
Ben Soukup
Tony Saccente
Fred Beam

Any questions, comments, ideas, or concerns you’d like to share?  Contact us at editor@deafpeople.com.
Copyright © 2007 - 2018 MSM Productions Ltd. All Rights Reserved.