Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What's Next for Nashville? You Can Help! (an update on that bridge that hears, tap dances and sings...)

This is an update to my last post regarding the recent name change of League of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing who merged with the EAR Foundation in Nashville, Tennessee to the lovely (please continue noting slight sarcasm) Hearing Bridges. I have more details this time around. There were 15 members voting on the name, while one member, who is hearing was absent for the vote. Just for the record there is only one person on this entire board who is deaf, Nancy Yater, and while she may feel out numbered, she isn't going anywhere! Her plan is to have an advocate committee of deaf and hard of hearing to bring their concerns to the board. (*ahem* One small concern comes to mind at the moment... but moving on....) There is also one hard of hearing member and one CODA (child of deaf adult). Just to clarify, 13 members who voted are hearing, one is hard of hearing, and one is deaf.

The decision to change the name from League of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing after 80 years due to the merge with the EAR Foundation was approved by a vote of 11-4 (with one member absent and not voting) in favor of Hearing Bridges as the new name. Nancy Yater, the lone deaf member of the board, and 3 others on this board were the only ones to dissent.

What’s really astounding to me is that, neither the CODA member nor the hard of hearing member voting, dissented. I think I’m more disappointed that a CODA was a consenting vote, because personally speaking most CODAs I’ve known have a special bond, not only with their parents, but with the deaf community as well.

On the other hand, I probably should not expect most hard of hearing people who have had no or very little connection with the deaf community to fully understand the dynamics behind this name, and to that particular group it might symbol hope to be more (as usual please note slightly more sarcasm here) “normal” one day, and to those who lost their hearing gradually or later in life, it really should be understandable to want to attain what they consider a normal hearing status quo… BUT that ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is exactly why this name is offensive to a large percentage of the population that this organization serves. To force that facade on all clients who don’t strive to be hearing…. will never be hearing… and live full lives in spite of not hearing...it's kind of like saying you're incomplete without hearing. The name doesn't exude an aura of support for those receiving services but instead gives a subtle (like...oh you know... a ton of bricks type subtle) air of superiority.

Look at it this way, it’s quite patronizing to name a place many profoundly deaf people go to for services HEARING Bridges. Seriously, would you send a man in a wheelchair to Walking Bridges? Or a blind woman to Seeing Bridges? Or how about that brunette girl to Blonde Bridges (okay that might happen..) ....but what about your dog to Cat Bridges? Seriously... no matter what that little mutt thinks...or what you want....he's just not ever going to be a cat! ....or how about we take a detour from Grandma's wild and crazy Bunco night and expect her to go be-bopping at Teen Bridges because if she tries hard enough she can be 16 again, right? Trust me, Grandma doesn't need to be 16 to have a good time, and I'm sure she'd find it maybe a little patronizing if you thought she needed to be in order to have a fabulous life. *SIGH* Not only is the name Hearing Bridges patronizing, thoughtless, and demeaning to the deaf community… it’s an OXYMORON. It just doesn’t have any rhyme or reason for the majority of the clients serviced by that agency.

My old friend from way back when, Kim Dance, is now the president of Tennessee Association of the Deaf, and she sent me a copy of an email that the board chair, Ron McCoy, has been sending out to various members of the deaf community in regards to this sticky situation. I have permission from Kim to share it here and all I’m doing is copying and pasting as is. If you are anywhere near Nashville the day of this meeting please go give this group some moral support and spread the word. The address for the meeting is 415 Fourth Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37201. You can also join the group “People opposing the new name HEARING BRIDGES instead of LDHH” on Facebook by simply clicking on the title of this post . Numbers speak volumes. Personally, I hope the board opens their eyes and invites the deaf to join them... no....make that encourages them and welcomes them with open arms, willing spirits, and GENUINE smiles on their faces.... who better to learn about the deaf community than from say... the deaf community perhaps? Just a parting thought.... and now for the email from Mr. McCoy...

From: McCoy, Ron R

Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 2:49 PM
Subject: IMPORTANT - Town Hall Meeting - Thursday December 3rd at 7:00pm at Hearing Bridges

Hello all:
Hearing Bridges formerly known as the League for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the EAR Foundation will be hosting a town hall meeting with the community on Thursday December 3rd at 7:00pm at Hearing Bridges.

The Board of Hearing Bridges will be the host of the meeting.

It has been brought to this Board's attention that many of you would like an opportunity to communicate with the Board directly regarding the name change, and the Board would like to collect more information. Please understand that there will not be a direct resolution that will come from the meeting that evening, and it will allow the Board the opportunity to listen to your responses both in support and against the name change.

There will be some simple ground rules for the meeting to facilitate o! rder:
1) Each person present will be given 3 minutes with a 1 minute warning to air their grievances, ask questions, or present to the board their opinions.
2) There will a platform for each person to present. In courtesy of each presenter we ask that all other persons remain seated.
3) The Board would like the opportunity to ask questions of each person that speaks in order to collect more information with a 2 minute time limit.
4) The process of recognizing each person will be announced that evening, and it will be fair and orderly. The goal is to give everyone the opportunity to speak.
5) Please no personal attacks and/or slanderous remarks and profanity.
6) This meeting will begin promptly at 7:00pm and end promptly at 9:00pm.

There will be interpreters present at this meeting.

We would love to have each and every one of you come to this meeting, so please do. This meeting will mean nothing without YOUR direct involvement. Pleas! e come, regardless of your stance it will be a great opportunity for the community and the Board to get to know each other.
Ron McCoy
Board Chair

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