There are amazing parallels to be drawn between the autistic community and the d/Deaf community:
- Both groups have been pathologicalized and are viewed by mainstream society to have a negative/debilitating medical condition that should at least be compensated for somehow or even “cured”
- Many members of both group disagree with the above view and rather consider themselves as just having a different experience of the world/functioning in a different way (i.e. respectively visual rather than aural, and processing information differently) which can in many ways be a positive thing – leading to the terms ‘Deaf Gain’ and ‘Neurodiversity’ arising
- Both groups have been and are being systematically oppressed in an attempt to “normalize” their members, such as through oralism (forcing deaf people to communicate in speech and prohibiting sign language, can be implemented by making deaf children communicate while holding their hands behind their backs) and ABA training (which involves “training”/”conditioning” autistic children to not stim – see “quiet hands” for instance) – this “normalization” has been argued to be in the subjects own best interest.
- Mainstream society have huge misconceptions about both groups. Yes, d/Deaf people can drive cars. Yes, autistic people can experience empathy just as well as neurotypicals. No, “Sign Language” isn’t one, universal language, and they are as varied and as natural as oral languages. No, autistic people aren’t all mathematical geniuses.
- Both groups are frankly in danger of being victims of genocide as technological advances in prenatal screening will potentially make it possible to predict whether a child will be born d/Deaf/autistic, and seeing how doctors are already pressuring pregnant people whose fetuses might be born with Down syndrome into getting abortions ……..
Both groups have a lot of fighting to do to gain recognition and equality, and they could probably learn a lot from each other. I don’t know much about d/Deaf culture beyond taking a course in Deaf Studies last week, and I’m not as involved in the autistic community as I could/want to be, but I want to learn more. If anyone reading this have thoughts, let me know?