Friday, 1 July 2011

Dear Chris Cairns

Dear Chris Cairns

I write to you in regards to the story about you, your wife and (deaf) baby daughter in Women's Day, July 4 2011.

First of all, I think its great that you have told your story, and are positive about your daughter's future. I am glad that you don't see deafness as a barrier and are not 'self-pitying, angry or dissappointed' as the author seems to assume you should have been. I'm sure it was a shock for you, although with your Dad being deaf, I think you would have been more accepting and prepared than the average Joe Bloggs.

I have a few things I would like to ask you though. You mention that if Isabel had been born 25 years ago, you would have used sign language, but because she was born in more modern times, you will take advantage of the great technology on offer (cochlear implant.) I would like to suggest to you that sign language is not old fashioned, in fact many more younger Deaf people use Sign Language happily and openly, than those of much older generations (in my experience,) who have been taught that sign language is shameful. In fact, New Zealand Sign Language is one of our countries official languages, and as such is now an accepted language of which many people choose as their first language. In the last census 28,000 New Zealanders identified as knowing some New Zealand Sign Language.

I say this to you not to condemn you. but to educate you. You mention that you had help from lots of professionals and met lots of families in the same position. Did you meet any families with Deaf children who use Sign Language? Or any Deaf people themselves to tell you what Deaf life is like? I accept your decision for a cochlear implant - you are the parents and I'm sure you're doing what you think is best for your child. However I want you to know, this is not the only way. There is a whole other world out there, with a rich language, vibrant people, who are proud and lead fulfilling lives. You could encourage Isabel to learn English and Sign Language, and let her choose her own way as she becomes older. Many hard of hearing people discover the Deaf world later in life and feel they have finally found a place they can fit in. If you give this option to Isabel early, let her see great role models, then she might have a more fulfilling life.

Thanks for listening to me


Jenn Gilbert

P.S not all my posts will be about Deaf things! These are just a few things that have caught my attention recently

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