Deafness: Is It a Disability?

10 05 2009

Note: My good friend Wade Engelsman wrote this as part of his English Final paper. We thought it’s good way to share with everybody. Please feel free to make comment. He made A on this one! –gwlj

Deafness: Is It a Disability?

Wade Engelsman

I am profoundly deaf. A rock could hear better than I. However, I am much more useful than the rock. According to the society that I live in, being a deaf citizen is considered a handicapped person. How dare they label me as a useless person! Individuals with deafness should not be looked upon, viewed or labeled as disabled.

The United States Government defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities.” (Office of Disability Employment Policy, 2009). That definition is offensive to me. First of all, the deaf population can do anything that a ‘normal’ person can do except hear. I am aware that I am not able to hear; however, it does not stop me from dancing, talking, playing with other children, work, or drive. What major life activities are being limited by being deaf? Talking? Heck, I can speak well. Listening to the radio or music? Not for me, who cares? And Beethoven, one of the world’s most renowned music composer was deaf. Driving? Well, TXxxxxxxx is my driver’s license number. In fact, there is a government report claiming that deaf drivers are safer than non-deaf drivers. Wagner mentioned that there is an article called Deaf-Mutes Are Safest Motorists on Pennsylvania’s Highway Systems which is found in The Bulletin of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, September 1940, pp. 15-16. (qtd. in “Hearing Disorders”). We as deaf drivers tend to use our eyes and pay attention to our surroundings much more than the hearing drivers. Often we are able to notice objects that might cause accidents easier than the normal people.

In the educational area, there is no difference in the possible performance of a hearing impaired student and the hearing students. Erica Olson, a student at Como Park Elementary in St.Paul, Minnesota, won the school’s spelling bee and title of 2000-01 champion.“Kelly Telech, one of Erica’s teachers in the program, says the girl is ‘definitely equal in every academic and intellectual way’ to other students.” (Dea, 2001). That is one of many successful stories in public education. Granted that many of the deaf students are in special education but that does not mean that they have learning disabilities. It is not the learning disability that puts them in special education, instead they should be considered as ESL (English as Second Language) students. “The teaching methods of ESL have been successful when applied to deaf education, and there is a need for improved cooperation between teachers of the deaf and ESL teachers.” (Magrath, 1985). American Sign Language is now more widely accepted as a foreign language. Because ASL is the language that deaf children learn first, English is harder for them to learn. I understand that not being able to hear words would put me in disadvantage position in learning. However, I graduated from my high school in the top 10% (39th out of 615) with GPA of 3.94. All of my courses were regular classes with an interpreter. One may argue that because I cannot hear and use a sign language interpreter, it makes me a disabled person. My counter response to that person who thinks that way is: Are Hispanic-American citizens that use a Spanish speaking interpreter also disabled people? However, I have to concur with the argument that because of our label of being a disability, it made it much easier to get interpreters and equipments such as hearing aids, closed captioning for television and video phones for school, jobs, doctor’s office and court. That is probably the only good reason for the deaf community to be viewed as handicapped people.

Success in the work field is not limited to the so called normal people. Alright, I know that any deaf person cannot be a policeman, a disc jockey for a radio station, nor an air traffic controller. But is one of those jobs listed above according to the definition of “Disability” considered a “major activity” for anybody’s life? It’s pretty much that any deaf person can do almost any kind of work that a normal person can do. Often, managers that I worked for would say that their deaf employees would be more reliable, faster, and work harder than others. Alex Abadi, owner of Image Microsystems, credits his deaf employees with the rapid growth of his recycling division which has nearly doubled his sales. "Disabled workers are better than regular employees," says Abadi, "They are more committed and like their jobs better. Other companies just need to give them a chance." (Stewart, 2008). There are sports figures, an actress who won an Oscar, owners/CEO of companies that are deaf. Denver Broncos’ defensive end KennyWalker, Curtis Pride who played outfield for Detroit Tigers, and Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleader Christina Murphy found success in professional sports. Being deaf did not stop Miss USA 1995 Heather Whitestone or Marlee Matlin who won an Oscar in 1987 for best actress from performing at their best. Sid Ander, founder of Krown Manufacturing, Inc. is one of the many hearing impaired successful business owners. (Krown, 2009). The most amazing thing that I have discovered is that Cupola Pakistan Limited, winner of 2008 Stevies’ International Business Award (The International Business Awards, 2008), has three Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants that are being run by all deaf employees with exception of one hearing manager. (KFC) 

I believe that society does not understand what deafness is. Many people tend to be misinformed about many things about deafness. What they need to realize that deafness is not a disability but a disadvantage. Once society understands and accepts that, the life of deaf people would be greatly improved.


Dea, V. (2001, January 31). Take Note. Education Week, 20(20), 3. Retrieved April 13, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.:,cookie,ip,uid&db=aph&AN=4132119&site=ehost-live

KFC run by Hearing Impaired Employees. Retrieved March 29, 2009, from What’s New at KFC website:

Krown Manufacturing, Inc. (2009). About Company. Retrieved March 29, 2009, from Krown Manufacturing Inc website:

HEARING DISORDERS and COMMERCIAL MOTOR VEHICLE DRIVERS (1993). p. E-42. Retrieved March 29, 2009, from Federal Carrier Safety Administration website:

The International Business Awards. Retrieved March 29, 2009, from The International Business Awards website:

Magrath, D. (1985, December). ESL and Deaf Education: Mutual Needs. Foreign Language Annals, v18 n6, p497-499. Retrieved April 20, 2009, from Education Resource Information Center database:

Office of Disability Employment Policy. (2009) Question: How does the federal government define “disability”? Retrieved March 29, 2009, from Office of Disability Employment Policy website:

Stewart, B. (2008, September 15). Deaf school dynamos. Retrieved April 20, 2009, from Small Business at CNNMoney website: 

WordCamp in Dallas!

19 03 2008

WordCamp Dallas 
See you guys there!

Grant Laird Jr.