Deafness and Ethnicity: Services, Policy and Politics

Article excerpt

Deafness and Ethnicity: Services, Policy and Politics

By Waqar Ahmad, Aliya Darr, Lesley Jones, and Gohar Nisa

The Policy Press, University of Bristol, 1998. ISBN 1-86134-088-5. 142 pages, (12.99 UK Pounds Sterling. Obtainable at www.forestbooks.com)

Deafness and Ethnicity: Services, Policy and Politics, captures the essence of making services accessible in full awareness of the cultural, social and religious backgrounds of minority ethnic deaf people. The authors used first hand qualitative data to shed light on the issues affecting minority ethnic deaf people in accessing various services in England. Their numerous implicit solutions to the problems of providing accessible services to minority ethnic deaf people is what makes this book a necessary tool for service provision agencies and professionals aiming at meeting the needs of minority ethnic deaf people in the provision of services. The 9 chapters are comprehensive and easy to read, and for most part, structured to reflect sequential steps in transition from one chapter to the next. The references provided (11 pages) will be a useful resource to workers interested in current research and practice in the provision of accessible services to minority ethnic deaf people.

In Chapter 1, the authors observed that minority ethnic people in general are disadvantaged in accessing various services. However, research into the experiences of deaf people from minority groups and their families in accessing health, educational, social and other services is scanty. Consequently, this book attempts to fill an important gap and to provide information on how services are responding or not responding to the needs of ethnic minority deaf people. Much of the evidence presented in this book was the outgrowth of the authors' research into initiatives for minority ethnic deaf people across Britain.

A major problem discussed in Chapter 2, indeed the recurring theme throughout this book, is the language and communication barriers encountered by minority ethnic deaf people in attempting to access services. Compared to the general population, increasing immigrant minority ethnic deaf people of Asian, African, and the Caribbean origins whose first language is not English or (British) sign language are found to be less well informed about their entitlements to a range of services and social welfare packages. Reliance on relatives and friends for information and interpretation remains unsatisfactory in that only a limited range of services could be accessible. It is further considered in Chapter 3 that racist stereotypes held by service providers and institutional racism restrict access to a range of services by minority ethnic people. The "medicalization" of service provision, "pathologizing" the behavior of deaf people, the language and politics of defining, describing and measuring deafness and the ways deafness is represented in the media constitute additional constraints to accessing services by minority ethnic deaf people. This is because these constructs have strong influence on the public and policy-makers' perceptions of deafness. These stereotypical views need to be changed and the diversity among deaf people needs to be recognized if services are to be made accessible and meaningful for them. The authors argue that if all relevant services are to be accessible to minority ethnic deaf people, it is imperative to understand the nature and politics of racism, culture and identity. Such an understanding could result to changes in legal and institutional structures and practices which in turn could ensure accessibility of services by these people.

There are some initiatives that could be considered "examples of good practice" discussed in Chapter 4 focusing on educational, social, cultural and religious activities across Britain aimed at providing accessible services to minority ethnic deaf people by some local authorities and minority ethnic groups. …