A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities, such as sitting, standing, or sleeping, of an individual (United States Department of Labor, 2010). In the history of the human race, there has been much discrimination of people with disabilities including the right to work, vote, marry, raise children, and generally enjoy other services and activities that others could. Historically, people who are deaf have been one of the most discriminated against groups with disabilities.
People who are deaf came together and created the Deaf Culture. Within this culture there are defined Deaf Communities. The Deaf Communities are extremely tight knit worlds that exist to preserve a culture, a rallying point for people with hearing disabilities. These communities provided a gathering place that allowed people with disabilities to gain political strength. Further, these communities offered activities and services to people with disabilities that they were not otherwise allowed to have access to. There are deaf theaters, coffee houses, schools, and churches (Oracle Thinkquest Education Foundation, 1997).
On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Public Law 101-336 was enacted. The ADA is a civil rights law that gives civil rights protections to people with disabilities and guarantees equal opportunity in employment, transportation, state and local government services, telecommunications, and in the goods and services provided by businesses (Congress, 2008). It is very similar to other civil rights laws which offer protection based on race, creed, color, sex, age, and religion.
Deafness can be caused by various things. A person can be born deaf (congenital) or acquire the condition of not being able to perceive sound through trauma, disease, or environmental conditions. People who have acquired deafness later in life, often times had already learned to speak. Once they become deaf, they are encouraged to continue speaking when communicating. Their speech is altered because they cannot hear how their voice and words sound. This altered speech has been a factor in judging intelligence among the deaf. These people have historically been labeled as “deaf and dumb” based solely on their speech patterns.
This attitude still persists in modern culture. Human nature is to avoid that which makes us uncomfortable or that we have no experience with. There are many well documented civil cases proving that this discrimination continues to occur and the battle is still being fought (Jury Verdict Review Publications, Inc., 2010).
The Department of Housing and Urban Development conducted some testing to be sure that landlords were being compliant with the ADA rulings. The testing results showed that landlords and rental agents were uncomfortable dealing with TTY (teletypewriter) calls and often times would simply hang up:
When a deaf tester called the housing provider using the TTY service, the call was answered by an answering machine. The relay operator left a message for the tester saying that he was interested in a two-bedroom apartment and asking the housing provider to call the tester back. The tester then asked the relay operator to call a second number that was listed in the advertisement. This time, the call was answered by a man. The tester typed, “Good morning, my name is ________ and I am interested in the two-bedroom apartment. Is it available?” As he was typing this message, the relay operator was explaining to the housing provider that the call was being placed by a deaf person using a relay service. The housing provider then hung up. Because the relay operator wasn’t sure if the housing provider had truly hung up or if the service
had been disconnected, the tester asked her to call again and to explain that he is deaf and that he is calling about the apartment for rent. As the relay operator was typing this message to the housing provider, the housing provider said, “Hey, stop calling me, son of a bitch, will you?” and hung up again. (Test #1004) (Turner, Herbig, Kaye, Fenderson, & Levy, 2005).
The Department of Housing and Urban Development shows many examples of discrimination that are currently happening. There are many active cases in the United Sates court systems waiting to be heard.
Education is the most important factor in stopping discrimination. It must begin with the young people; they must be taught early that people are created equally and must be treated equally regardless of skin color, religious beliefs, sex, national origin, or disabilities. The problem with this plan is that the teachers are discriminating. They are teaching based on their own ingrained stereotypes and passing on the same beliefs and fears that they were taught. There is no easy solution.
This pattern has evolved over the decades and will do so unless a new method of relaying stories, tales, and myths is found. It is generally known that myths and stories are crucial to child development. Rewriting of the fables and stories of youth may be the only way to change the pattern. Modernization of the myths could help in stopping discrimination and hate. This will be a daunting venture and could take decades, or centuries, to change. The myths of today date back to the days of the Greek Gods. However, it is vital that this work begin now in order to create a world that is more tolerant of others, and therefore, less violent and hateful of their fellow man.
Congress, U.S. (2008). American with disabilities act of 1990, as amended. Retrieved July 18,
2010 from U.S. Department of Justice ADA Home Page:
Jury Verdict Review Publications, Inc. (2010). Jury verdict review & analysis: verdict search.
Retrieved July 18, 2010, from Jury Verdict Review & Analysis:
Oracle Thinkquest Education Foundation. (1997). Deaf culture. Retrieved July 18, 2010, from
Turner, M., Herbig, C., Kaye, D., Fenderson, J., & levy, D. (2005). Discrimination against
person with disabilities: barriers at every step. Retrieved July 18, 2010, from U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development:
U.S. Department of Labor. (2010). A World In Which People With Disabilities Have Unlimited
Employment Opportunities. Retrieved July 18, 2010, from Office of Disability Employment Policy: