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Why is ASL in Silence?

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Today is August 1st—the day I will never forget. Eight years ago in 2008 that day, my beautiful mother experienced the most severe heart attack, her fourth heart attack in 12 years and died for 20 minutes before coming back to life. I just do not know how to explain this—when I first saw my mother had to deal with all the tubes in her mouth being in coma—I cried very hard. I was 33 years old and healthy. It was incredible. I was there in the same room when she woke up for the first time and used American Sign Language (ASL) in her left hand, “H-E-L-P” several times asking to have the tube removed and confused why she was in the hospital—it was a wake-up call for everything. I am really blessed that ASL has been brought on Mother Earth for a reason.

To be clear, ASL is very important, more so than any in our lifetime. To be Deaf is something that begins with us. It begins in our hearts, in that place that is never separate from the living heart of ours. To be Deaf is something that begins with ourselves that finds it mirrored back to us by the Deaf community. This community, our people, ASL, between right and wrong, between night and day, and between matter and spirit is very important right now.

The hospitals in America can be difficult for Deaf people to deal with when they ask for certified ASL interpreters, I am talking about cheap ASL interpreters that are not even certified or know nothing at all is very offensive for Deaf people. There are hospitals that refuses ASL interpreters for so long that we have defined ourselves in opposition to how the general society has viewed us. We have defined ourselves, and been defined, by that which seemed to be in us most different. Wait…. ASL makes us different, right?

In this time of crisis, it is Deaf leaders who hold out, by our very nature, the deepest vision of healing and peace that is possible for Deaf community to have the rights to get certified ASL interpreters. It is all about common ground to connect—and enter into the collective unconscious. Why I write this because that day when I asked for ASL interpreter, the hospital refused to offer ASL interpreter even a particular doctor, an asshole who refused to believe that she was my mother and I was clearly pissed off just because I’m Deaf and different. After that, I got fed up and became an activist many months later.

Hospitals today in 2016—Deaf people still are struggling to get ASL interpreters. The hospitals need to be criticized on moral, economic and political grounds. Every Deaf American must face defining moments—we are facing one now. We do not need to deal with feelings of discord and despair—not only that, but we should not deal with this to find a way forward. It is all about ideals of dignity, equality, and justice. Today, we need Deaf leaders to be stronger than ever to overcome the crisis and Deaf people are in a moment of human rights to get ASL interpreters, no matter what! It was very difficult time for me that day.

Today, I survived four heart attacks in a year ALONE unlike my mother with four heart attacks in 12 years. I wonder what if it happened to me when the hospitals refuse to offer ASL interpreter or whatever it means. Most recently, about seven months ago, I had experienced pain in my heart and went to the hospital and asked for ASL interpreter right now instead that I be in the “waiting” room for five hours before finally ASL interpreter was available. National Association of the Deaf (NAD) said, “too bad” and moved on. I was very offended what NAD said to me and the CEO did not even bother to do anything about it. After that, I will never ask help from NAD ever again just because they lack in that area due to shortage of lawyers, Bullshit!

There are two important amendments to the United States Constitution that help to explain the rights of Deaf patients at hospitals. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances. Here’s a breakdown: freedom of press, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, and freedom to petition.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; not shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. 

Here’s a breakdown: provides “equal protection of the law”, therefore preventing discrimination in hospitals—think about that. Again, I wonder—what if I experience severe heart attack right now, what would it look at this hour? I wonder…with all the tubes in my mouth? Why is ASL in silence?

-JT

Copyright © 2016 Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.

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