So this week in a Deaf studies course, we got to go over the term “hearing privilege”, and what constitutes that. Needless to say, I was very excited to finally discuss this. However, most of the students (hearing) seemed to dismiss it, not realizing how crucial a role this plays in many people’s lives.
These are NOT my words. I would like to make that abundantly clear.
Hearing privilege is…
-conversing with friends in public without being stared at.
-never being asked to justify or defend your existence as a hearing person.
-making mistakes without being considered a representative of the entire hearing population.
-having opportunities over Deaf people, such as: teaching positions, job promotions, presenting at conferences, and committees.
-teaching ASL or working in jobs requiring ASL fluency without providing evidence of ASL skills.
-being able to interpret in certain states without certification.
-being able to jump in and out of “the fight”. You don’t need to live it everyday if you don’t want to.
-means that many Deaf people will make you feel that you are okay, even if they don’t think you are doing the right thing, because they are not comfortable challenging you as a hearing person.
-means that you are never pitied for who you are. Hearing privilege is not having someone apologize to you when they discover your hearing status.
-being able to call businesses and agencies without worrying that they will hang up on you.
-turning on the television and expecting to access anything that’s showing. Being able to go to any movie theatre, anytime and enjoy a show. It is to know that you can enjoy the arts anywhere, anytime.
-going through the drive-thru to order your food.
-going to the emergency room and expecting to get service immediately; all nurses and doctors can communicate in your language. In an emergency, all police, firefighters, and EMT personnel speak your language.
-taking any classes, anywhere - as well as workshops - and expecting to access the information. You can expect that you will be allowed to take the classes.
-building a strong resume because you have had access to those opportunities.
-being able to change jobs and stay within the same city or state.
-beiing allowed to opt out of signing if you so choose.
-being able to choose a religion based on your spiritual beliefs instead of which ones provide services in ASL.
-having the option to serve your country if you so choose.
-means that you are not subject to repeated and painful medical probing (ears, brain, throat). Hearing privilege is never being pressured to have surgery to “repair” something that is very much a part of your identity.
-being able to make mistakes in written English without people assuming you are not capable of proper English.
-sitting in any room and feeling comfortable with how it is set up. Cars, trains, planes are all designed to fit your aural and spatial preferences.
-knowing that when you go to court, you can expect a jury of your peers. It means knowing that you will not be denied the opportunity to serve jury duty because of your hearing status.
-being able to struggle with a task without someone stepping in to take over, assuming that you cannot do it due to your hearing status.
-expecting to access speakers anywhere (airports, ballgames, auditoriums, trains, etc.).
-expecting to find support groups, sports groups where my language is used, even in small towns.
-representing yourself. Knowing that your exact choice of words are used. You do not have to wait for an interpreter. You do not have to wonder if the interpreter is skilled or qualified.
-being able to expect to have direct conversations with teachers, with supervisors, with board members anywhere.
-showing up at your city council, senator’s office, congressperson’s, governor’s, or president’s office anytime and being able to have a direct conversation in your language.
-not fearing for your life and safety when you see a police officer.
Now, I understand that some of these are applicable to hearing people (such as the last one, with all the discrimination out there). However, ignorance is never an excuse for abusing your hearing privilege, regardless of whether you realize you are doing it or not. Again, ignorance is never an excuse. If you realize that you abused it, offended someone, etc., do you know what you do? You apologize, and ask for that person to point out if you mess up so that you can learn from your mistakes.