USING HEARING PRIVILEGE TO ADVOCATE FOR THE DEAF TO SEEK THE LORD
Have you ever heard of the phrase “Hearing Privilege”? Hearing Privilege is someone who has access to more auditory information rather than those who are unable to hear. You may not realize that you have those “privileges” over Deaf, Hard-Of-Hearing, and Deaf-Blind people.
You might deny this existence. However, “hearing privilege” does exist. Society already has issues with “white privilege,” “male privilege, etc.” Therefore, why not bring this one to light?
I know that the word “privilege” might offend some people and make some people feel uncomfortable. However, I wanted to clarify that there is no reason to feel annoyed or awkward. The word “privilege” is not about having an easy life. It’s about self-awareness and appreciation of what you have. In addition, self-awareness of how one can use their privileges to support another person. If you still don’t understand what “hearing privilege” means, maybe the following examples will help you grasp the concept.
AT A PUBLIC, SPIRITUAL EVENT
With your hearing privilege, you can attend a church, a Christian concert, a bible study, a conference, or a social event without worrying about having access. You can hear the spoken information around you. You can choose to go at any time. For Deaf people, We may have to wait until a specific time and day for our accommodations to be provided. In addition, we wonder if this place would be quiet or noisy. We wonder if this event would be captioned or have interpreters. On multiple occasions, an interpreter request has been made but denied. We Deaf people are constantly unsure if we have access or not.
LISTENING TO A PODCAST/ONLINE MESSAGE
With your hearing privilege, you can listen to a Christian podcast or an online radio. You don’t have to worry if the environment has background noises because you simply place your headphones into your ears and block the rest of the world out. It’s nice to have that option. Isn’t it? For Deaf people, the radio in the car is silent. Deaf people may or may not get the information at a later notice.
GOING TO A SEMINARY OR AN UNIVERSITY
With your hearing privilege, you have direct access to a lecture in a seminary or a University. Therefore, you can excel in your courses without any communication barriers. You develop your spiritual leadership skills quickly and become equipped with tools to represent God’s Word to others. Deaf people need to rely on a sign language interpreter, captioning services, and other possible accommodations in the classroom. The American Disability Act Law requires public services such as educational settings to provide an interpreter in America. Multiple seminaries and universities often deny those requests.
You may have seen Christian videos produced by hearing people who are using sign language. These hearing signers are not native signers. Therefore, signing mistakes are visibly seen in the video frequently. HOWEVER, non-signers do not know that. They inadvertently give the video a lot of likes, shares, and positive comments that praise these mistakes. In a way, this shadows a Deaf person who represents the language well to receive fewer views on their Christian videos. This makes it seems like other people do not appreciate their videos nor deem them unique. This is another example of hearing privilege.
HOW TO USE YOUR HEARING PRIVILEGE THE RIGHT WAY
While there are many examples of hearing privileges, the objective of this article is not to criticize your privilege. Instead, this article aims to persuade you to learn about the good things you can do with your hearing privilege. For example,
As hearing individuals, you have access to “incidental learning,” or the ability to hear information that surrounds you. For example, you hear an announcement, a conversation with a friend, etc. When you hear that information and are with a Deaf person, please share that information with them.
If you are watching a Christian TV show or a Christian video with a Deaf person or a Hard-Of-Hearing person, please turn the subtitles on.
If you know a few words in sign language, such as fingerspelling your name, please use them. They will be grateful for your efforts and your support.
If you are hosting a church service, a bible study, a Christian conference, or a fellowship event, please consider accommodations for Deaf people. For example, please reserve seats for them in the front row to see the speaker and allow the interpreter to stand near the speaker. This way, they can see the visual information as a whole.
Please be willing to try to interact with a Deaf person and gain cultural awareness and appreciation of their identity. Please learn about their history, background, and struggles growing up. Please research Deaf Culture etiquettes, Deaf History, and the Deaf Community’s values and beliefs. The more you know about Deaf people, the better you will understand how to use your hearing privilege respectfully.
Overall, this article intends not to criticize people who can hear. It’s about encouraging you to acknowledge your hearing privilege, appreciate what you have, and use it for good. I hope this information is helpful to you and enables you to support the Deaf Community. We value your time and appreciate your kindness.
Here’s one video explaining why we need your help: