The issue of 'impairment' : an analysis of diverging discourses used to represent the d/Deaf population in America

Nickels, Lindsay (2016) The issue of 'impairment' : an analysis of diverging discourses used to represent the d/Deaf population in America. Studies in the Linguistic Sciences. pp. 1-19. ISSN 0049-2388

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Reference terms used to refer to d/Deaf individuals in America have long been a point of contention within the d/Deaf population. Although this population in its majority prefers to be regarded as members of a cultural and linguistic minority mainstream society often opts for a different view, one that associates them as a disabled, or ‘impaired’ group. It can be argued that the ubiquitous use of the term ‘impaired’ in classifying the d/Deaf population is one of the ways in which existing power relations are maintained, constraining the opportunities of those considered ‘impaired’. d/Deaf individuals, as well as advocates and allies of the d/Deaf community, believe that the association with the disabled community and classification as ‘impaired’ promotes the same agenda popular years ago: one where d/Deaf people need the help of hearing people to compensate for their impairment and where the ultimate goal should be to mend said impairment in order to participate in society as a ‘normal’ person would (Lane, 1995; 1999). This paper presents a small-scale textual analysis that is used to determine to what degree these beliefs are true. The analysis presented in this paper reveals elements suggesting the existence of divergent discourses surrounding the use of the reference terms ‘hearing-impaired’ and ‘d/Deaf’. Conducted within the framework of critical discourse analysis, this small-scale research study employs systems of Systemic Functional Grammar (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2014), including social actor representation (van Leeuwen, 1996) and transitivity, as the means for discourse analysis. Findings will show the discursive strategies in which the term ‘hearing-impaired’ is used and the extent to which the discursive use of this label supports the ideology that Deafness is deficiency.

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Journal Article
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Studies in the Linguistic Sciences
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Deposited On:
05 Aug 2015 08:44
Last Modified:
07 Nov 2023 23:36