Foot raceThere is nothing that will attract negative media attention more than an outcry against something that is oppressive towards a minority group. That is why when people host races/events to raise money, they need to think about how they market the race and what the “group” of people the money is supposedly for, will say.  Today there was a 5/10k run in Kansas City for children that need hearing aids.

While hearing aids are assistive devices that many children and older adults use to amplify sound, the need for hearing aids don’t justify marketing such as this:

Hearing is a vital SENSE for development. Without hearing children can’t learn to speak and communicate with the rest of the world. Access to sound through early amplification and intervention lays the foundation for success. Providing hearing impaired children these services opens many doors for them. Hearing allows children the opportunity to talk, sing, and communicate with their peers. Without hearing children miss the chance to Dance to the Music of Life. (We Can Hear You Now)

While this is a marketing ploy to get people to support purchase of hearing aids, there is everything wrong with talking about “poor hearing impaired children” and how they can’t accomplish anything in life without hearing. There are many successful adults that do not have hearing aids or cochlear implants so everything they’ve said in that piece of marketing is false.

Hearing aids. 07/19/2014.

Hearing aids. 07/19/2014.

People can communicate in life without hearing aids. While they might not be up to hearing people’s standards, they are communicating. While they might not be using the language that hearing people would prefer, they are still communicating. American Sign Language does not require hearing aids to communicate. Writing with a pen on a piece of paper does not require hearing aids nor does lipreading.  While nobody will deny that communication and language are critical aspects to development of an individual, that doesn’t mean that everybody that doesn’t speak or write in English will have a horrible life.

The reality is, being deaf is more than just a lack of sense, it is a culture and community. While it’s true that if the person wasn’t somebody that fits in the category required to be a part of the community, they may or may not be welcome. However, there are people that are hearing and still are welcome for many reasons including: they are CODAs, interpreters, or allies of the community. It is true that if there were no Deaf people, there would be no community but that is true for every other community. They must have some sort of difference to connect over, so when people say they do not support the idea of a community for us merely because of the requirement of existence, they are also saying they don’t support the idea of communities in general.

The group that hosted this particular race gave off the impression that they do not support sign language (for the lack of interpreters present) but they sure had no problem taking advantage of ASL by having some person come up front and sign the national anthem. The group that hosted the race had great intentions in providing funds for those that can’t afford hearing aids, they obviously did not have the support of the actual community they are funding. There were no people there that use hearing aids nor were there any people that sign present at the race. It’s either, poorly advertised within the community or people don’t like what they saw on the flyers. The lesson here is to think about who is being sponsored and how they feel about the race marketing methods.

Written by Mary Pat Withem
Follow her on Twitter @mpwithem