Among Twists in Budget Woes, Tensions Over Teaching the Deaf

Jul 27, 2011 by

INDIANAPOLIS — Politicians have seen plenty of demonstrators outside the Statehouse here. But the crowd that gathered last month was a bit different from the usual shouting protesters.

Scores of deaf and hard-of-hearing children and their families assembled to complain in American Sign Language. Parents also have confronted new board members of the state’s school for the deaf in pointed, awkward exchanges. And more objections are expected when the board convenes next month for what had, until now, been ordinary meetings on routine school matters.

At the root of the tension is a debate that stretches well beyond Indiana: Will sign language and the nation’s separate schools for the deaf be abandoned as more of the deaf turn to communicating, with help from fast-evolving technology, through amplified sounds and speech?

And in the struggle to balance depleted budgets, Indiana and other states, like Kansas, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota and West Virginia have called for cuts on many fronts in recent years, including for state schools for the deaf — a group of institutions with long, rich traditions.

Some advocates for the schools now worry that financial concerns could push the debate toward sending deaf children to “mainstream” schools, which would, in the eyes of some, ultimately encourage methods of communication other than American Sign Language, or A.S.L.

via Among Twists in Budget Woes, Tensions Over Teaching the Deaf – NYTimes.com.

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