Proposed “Quick Fix” Bill in California Legislature Upsets Parents and Deaf Community

A bill which is now being considered by the California State Senate (AB 2072) threatens to harm the well being of deaf children by allowing vested interests to dominate the process of creating and distributing information provided to parents of newborn deaf children.

Sacramento, CA (PRWEB) May 27, 2010 — A bill introduced by Assembly member Mendoza (AB 2072) has parents, members of the Deaf Community, and professionals in an uproar over a lack of state accountability, transparency, and oversight concerning information to be shared with new parents of infants identified as being deaf or hard of hearing.

Members of a stakeholder coalition, the California Deaf Newborn Identification & Advocacy Stakeholder Coalition (CDNIAS), composed of many who use American Sign Language (ASL), believe the bill threatens existing law and ignores the importance of early language acquisition for infants who need early start services provided by the California Department of Education as the appropriate agency which develops and shares information with parents.

This bill, by ostensibly using the broadminded term “options,” actually proceeds to list a patchwork collection of incommensurable items. By listing what the bill calls “communication options,” the thrust of the bill is wide off the mark since it fails to identify the key issue for babies: Language. The proposed material to be distributed to parents that has so far been identified by proponents of the bill is a brochure which is biased, devoting the bulk of the space toward steering parents into choosing a surgical device to help their infant hear, and does not provide balanced and comprehensive, research-based information. Danielle Reader, a parent of a deaf child explains, “When my son was 8 months old, the only thing we heard about was the push to get him a cochlear implant. Now he is 7 years old and he never did benefit from it. The propaganda about cochlear implants overwhelms parents. Thank God for the visual language of ASL. With ASL, he is able to catch up and learn language and also excel in English.”

The bill misleads the public in purporting that information to be provided to parents of deaf children will not cost the state anything, says the CDNIAS. So who would actually finance the distributing of the information? The brochure in question misleads parents into believing their child can easily learn to “hear and speak” a language with the aid of hearing devices. Whether acknowledged or not, the brochure is, in effect, published by the manufacturers, vendors and dispensers of these devices. While there are some successes with a strictly auditory approach, the vast majority do not succeed. Deaf children, whether implanted or not, are still deaf children, and need visual access to American Sign Language and English. The bill, while on its face provides information on options, actually would limit families’ choices. The bill also conveys undue prominence toward audiologists, who would thereby tend to become the de facto first providers of information to parents of newly identified deaf children. But audiologists are trained to advise on issues of speech and hearing and are not language specialists. They are not trained to know how to share resources with the family on how to successfully raise a deaf child. Speech is not the equivalent of language, and device-aided hearing is not the equivalent of language comprehension.

Only a few lines in the proposed material explain anything about American Sign Language, which is not enough of a description or explanation to convey to parents of newborn deaf children how necessary and important it is that their child be provided a VISUAL means to acquire language in infancy and as toddlers.

Without the State of California being involved in creating the material called for by AB2072, we stakeholders believe that the State is passively showing favoritism toward vested financial interests who purposely aim to manipulate parents though misleading information. “If this bill passes as written, California would have no way to ensure that the materials given to new parents do not create additional liabilities or public policy issues for the state,” says Ralph Singleton, President of the California Association of the Deaf. He adds, “Sign language should never be viewed as an option, it’s a human right.”

The California Deaf Newborn Identification & Advocacy Stakeholder Coalition (CDNIAS), is a diverse group of taxpayers who are consumers, parents of deaf and hard-of-hearing children, California educators, deaf service providers, researchers, and hearing allies.

Contact: Julie Rems Smario


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