I'm happy that people are considering and discussing my
I came up with it because so much wanted a simple way for people
to understand the relationships between hearing and Deaf in the
I originally only used three "characters in the analogy: fish,
frogs, and landwalkers."
At first I lumped codas and sodas in with the frogs. But then
later realized that there needed to be more distinctions due to
the differences in levels of commitment to the water (visual
environment/ASL). Frogs are physically different from either
landwalkers or fish. They are not as skilled at breathing air
as landwalkers and they are not as fast at swimming as the
fish. Thus I decided that only hard of hearing people are
Hearing people who know ASL are still landwalkers but they now
have a tool with which to function in a water environment. Some
landwalkers simply take a deep breath and dive in for a few
minutes. They thrash around, scare the fish, and then climb out
after a few minutes and tell their friends what a great time it
Others buy a snorkle (take lots of classes, attend deaf
Others grow up around water, (codas/sodas) buy boats, snorkels,
scuba gear, could stay down a very long time and understand how
to get along with the fish without scaring them.
Interpreters could fit into either category, snorkeler or scuba
diver, depending on whether they grew up around the fish and or
how much they currently immerse themselves in the water.
Fish and some species of frogs must be in the water or they will
They have no choice. They can't climb out of the water at the
end of the day, dry off and go home. The water is their home.
I've added yet another "creature" to the pond: Dolphins
(and porpoises). It seems to me that some Codas are
Dolphins are born in the water and swim like a fish. Their
mannerisms are like those of fish, but technically dolphins
are not fish -- they are mammals, they breathe air.
That is like some Codas. They are born into the Deaf
community and ASL is their first language. Their mannerisms
are similar to those of Deaf people, but Codas can hear.
Dear Dr. Bill,
Recently the leaders of my church offered to set up a "Deaf
Corner" on the church bulletin board. I don't think there needs
to be a "Deaf corner" for the church bulletin board. To me that
is like having a "seniors corner" or a "diabetic corner." We
don't need to be separated from the rest of the church members.
What do you think?
Having a Deaf corner is more like having a "Single Adults
Corner." Having specialized spaces is a way for
like-minded folks to more efficiently link to other like-minded
Sure, I get it that civilizations have long histories of
restricting minorities and people with disabilities to
segregated spaces and environments. In general that
is a bad thing.
However, I'll suggest to you that the more "Deaf spaces" that
exist the more we will thrive.
The LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) educational
reform initiatives of the 70's and 80's totally missed the mark
when it came to serving the Deaf and that is still the case
For us Deaf, the LRE is 'not" integration but actually
segregation. What works for us is the opposite of what works for
most "so called" disability groups due to the fact that our
issue is isn't "disability" rather it is language.
Suppose I had a lot of pets: cats, dogs, birds, and fish. Then
suppose I said let's integrate the "fish" with the rest of my
pets -- so that my fish don't feel separated and alone. So, I
dump the fishbowl out on the floor so the fish can "hang out"
with the rest of the pets. Then I wonder why the fish are not
thriving since I have gone out of my way to do them the favor
of integrating them.
The BEST place for fish is going to be a huge pond, a river, or
If they "have to" be anywhere other than those places then we
start working our way down from an aquarium to a fishbowl.
Water is to Fish as "Deaf Spaces" are to "Deaf people." Fish
need water to exist. Deaf people need visual communication to
Anyway, my thought is that you could use the "Deaf corner" to
post links to your church's ASL-related materials, your Deaf
group's Facebook page, the Sunday meeting schedule for your Deaf
group, and any extra meetings that your Deaf members hold.
Also you might want to post a link to Lifeprint.com and
Handspeak.com so your Hearing members can learn sign language.
Or set up a "Gospel Signing class" and use the "Deaf Corner" on
the bulletin board to list the day, time, and meeting place of
That way the Hearing members and any visitors (both Hearing and
Deaf) can see the links and hook up with your Deaf group -- thus
making it stronger.
Suppose someone came to visit my house and I showed them my
dogs, cats, and my fish in the bowl. As I introduced the fish
suppose I mentioned "and here is my disabled fish."
When my visitor asked why I thought the fish is disabled, I'd
tell them, 'The fish can't walk and he needs water to get around
Pretty silly eh?
Obviously the fish is not disabled simply because it uses a
different modality for mobility. Similarly Deaf people are
not disabled simply because we use a different modality for
communication. Sure, if you pour out a fish onto the floor
it is going to seem "very disabled." But the same is true if you
were to put a cat in a river. (Don't do it.) Similarly a
Hearing person will seem disabled if you put that Hearing person
(who doesn't know sign language) in an environment where it is
too noisy to hear, (for example, on "on a loud dance floor").
Two Deaf people however will have no problem communicating in
that same noisy environment.
A large, healthy, muscular man (or woman) is disabled if he
needs to fit through a small space. Eventually, if we
live long enough, we are all going to become "disabled" due to
the ravages of time on our bodies.
Thus "disability" is situational and "the disabled" includes
everyone--we all take our turns - depending on where we are and
what we are being expected to do. Conversely, none of us are
disabled if our environment matches our abilities.
- Dr. Bill