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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Inclusion, accessibility and justice: equal rights for all

Nickie Phillips

Guest Post by Dr. Aviva Twersky Glasner, Ph.D., Criminal Justice Researcher and Assistant Professor at Bridgewater State University, Massachusetts My 16 year old son was born profoundly deaf. I knew it right after he was born, it’s weird because there are no other deaf people in my family but call it a mother’s instinct or something because I knew. Getting my husband and the pediatricians on board was more of a struggle. I kept hearing “Oh Mrs. Glasner, you’re just comparing him to your daughter and everyone knows boys are slower than girls” or “Don’t be silly-you sound like you want him to be deaf.” I truly didn’t care if he was deaf or not, I loved him no matter what. He was finally “officially” diagnosed when he was 14 months old and then we got the onslaught of advice from doctors, audiologists and “hearing specialists.” I am ashamed to say that I was swayed into consenting for him to get a cochlear implant but I remained adamant that he would get and appropriate deaf education. He never took to the implant and resisted quite strenuously. After 5 years of this struggle I said to his teachers, “how would you have taught him 20 years ago when cochlear implants didn’t exist? Give him a deaf education and let him communicate in sign!!! He never wore that fecockta (pardon my Yiddish) thing again. He is now going to an ASL intensive school for the Deaf in Massachusetts and doing very well. He is growing into a fine young man.

The impetus for the present study started when I was doing my doctoral dissertation research on Deaf and Hard of Hearing prison inmates. I learned some interesting things about deafness and language and exclusion from “hearing” society. The thing that really launched this present study was a moment of clarity I had a few months ago. I was going with my son to Panera to get him some bagels when I had this image of the two of us in 30 years, still going to Panera, me ordering for him as always. I became upset and thought, how can I get him to order his own bagels? How can I get him to interact with the hearing world, since he is a member of a linguistic minority? It puzzled me and still does. Because I am a Criminal Justice and Forensic Psychology researcher and professor, of course, I took it a step further and wanted to know how D/deaf and Hard of Hearing adults interact with the justice system. How do you call the police for help? What do you do when you are stopped by the police? Do they know you’re deaf? Do they have ridiculous expectations of you reading their lips? Do you get the interpreter that you are entitled to? That’s why I am doing this research-I want to know more about your lives in the larger hearing world.

For a video clip illustrating the potential problems that may occur between D/deaf adults and the police, go here.

For more information, and to participate in Dr. Twersky Glasner’s study, go here.

You may contact Dr. Twersky Glasner directly at atwerskyglasner@bridgew.edu