The peculiar needs of deaf people : a study of selected members of the Lincolnshire deaf social group
In spite of the fact that services for deaf people have been provided since Victorian times, there is no "philosophy of deafness" and services are based upon the subjective observation of deaf people by "hearing" people. This study seeks to formulate such a philosophy, for those unable to hear spoken communication from birth or early childhood, based upon acceptance of the social limitations of being unable to hear in a society where the ready use of that sense is taken for granted. In order to base this philosophy upon the objective assessment of deaf people's needs, deaf respondents were interviewed and observed and their referrals to specialist agencies for deaf people and the work of a group of social workers with deaf people were examined. The study re-defines deaf "community" and deaf "culture" as the deaf social group and the deaf way of life, arguing that the former concepts marginalise deaf people and stressing that although deaf people need to make sub-cultural adaptations in order primarily to satisfy their social-psychological needs and for fellowship, the deaf sub-culture is an extension of "hearing" culture and deaf people would benefit by becoming effectually bi-cultural. It is suggested that "deafness" rather than membership of the deaf "community" is ascribed to deaf people. The study sees the uniqueness of the deaf sub-culture in the means of inter-personal communication, Sign Language, and in its members' self-identification as "deaf". The idea of individual autonomy is developed and it is used as a framework within which to formulate a philosophy of deafness which recognises the need for sub-cultural adaptations by deaf people, because of the inevitability of impediments to fluent inter-personal communication between deaf and "hearing" people. The philosophy also recognises the need for "hearing" people to accommodate to deafness in order to reduce deaf people's marginal status in society, principally through the use of Sign Language, either directly, or through interpreters. Finally, implications for policies of service provision are considered, in particular the need for deaf people to be involved with planning and provision of services for deaf people based upon a social rather than a social work/pathological model.