Next week I'm heading to St. Louis for a speaking gig, this one at the annual Early Hearing Detection & Intervention meeting, which draws hundreds of medical personnel, teachers and parents of deaf children from around the country to discuss the issues of hearing problems in infants.
I'm speaking on "Writing While Deaf," about the effect my profound deafness has had on my career in the hearing world as an editor and writer. I'm going by train—Amtrak's Lincoln Service between Chicago and St. Louis—and naturally there will be a report on the rail trip on my TrainWeb blog.
Will there be a report on the EHDI conference? Probably not; deafness in infancy is not my field of expertise. But if anything interesting happens on the political protest front, maybe.
Several groups devoted to Deaf culture and American Sign Language have vowed to demonstrate at the conference. They hold that deafness is not a medical condition to be cured, but a culture to be celebrated. They want babies to learn ASL and enjoy the benefits of Deaf culture rather than undergoing surgical intervention with cochlear implants and the like.
I respect their point of view, and hope they will also respect mine. I believe that deaf people are not all alike, that each instance of deafness is different, that our diversity should be celebrated, not squelched, and that the choices that informed and concerned parents make for their youngsters should be honored, not attacked.
According to the conference organizers, the groups planning to protest were invited to join in the proceedings to air their points of view. (In fact, several official presenters will be offering insights on teaching ASL to deaf babies.) But the groups refused, choosing instead to picket.
Security will be tight, the EHDI organizers said in an e-mail the other day, saying they hoped the protests would be peaceful and orderly.
This will be interesting. Stay tuned.
[MARCH 6. There were some "unpleasant" events at the conference, the organizers said when we arrived March 5, and the head of the group wanted to assign me a bodyguard to prevent anything untoward from happening, but we encountered absolutely nothing except polite and congenial people. I'll confess to being a little disappointed. It might have been bracing to debate points of view, and perhaps new understanding of both sides might have been achieved.]