The issue
Deaf youth tend to be out of touch or not involved with the larger Deaf community, to lack access to power and the ability to use it within decision-making processes, and to be uncertain about their identity.

CAD's position
Deaf organizations need to make greater outreach efforts to introduce the youth to their rightful language and culture, to bring Deaf role-models, culture, and language into the regular schools, and to keep the centralized Deaf schools as a valid option for education and socialization.

The tendency in recent years has been for governments to close Deaf schools and Deaf programs and to place all students in regular schools, regardless of their language preferences and regardless of whether or not there are sufficient and appropriate support services for them in the regular schools.

The Canadian Association of the Deaf believes that at a minimum, the centralized schools for the Deaf must be kept open as an alternative for the education and socialization of Deaf children, and that the Deaf culture and language must be respected and maintained because they are valid as any hearing culture and language.

The Canadian Association of the Deaf holds that placement in regular schools, even at its best, is alienating for Deaf youth. It devalues their natural language and culture and it leaves them with minimal if any peers or role-models who are also Deaf. It gives them minimal opportunity to be introduced to Deaf culture and to learn its ways and values. It insists that the Deaf youth must adopt a language, culture, peers, role-models, and values which are not only foreign but which cannot provide a true and comfortable identity for the Deaf youth, simply because s/he is Deaf and they are not.

In addition to maintaining the centralized Deaf schools, the Canadian Association of the Deaf insists that Deaf culture and Sign language (ASL, LSQ) must be welcomed into the regular schools wherever Deaf youth are present. Adults who are themselves Deaf must be hired as school personnel such as counsellors, administrators, teachers, and special course instructors; Deaf youth must be provided with lessons in ASL or LSQ by qualified Deaf instructors; they must be provided with information about Deaf history and culture; and they must be encouraged to participate in local Deaf organizations.

A curriculum supplement should be developed which can be integrated into the present provincial curricula. As an example, a section on Deaf culture, ASL linguistics, and Deaf history could be made part of a unit on multiculturalism within the Social Studies curriculum. Regional and local Deaf professionals and Deaf volunteers should be invited to present in the classrooms as part of this program.

The local and national Deaf organizations (including the CAD itself) must make a greater effort to reach out to mainstreamed Deaf youth and to introduce them to their own natural language and culture. They must make it clear that all participation by Deaf youth is welcome, because the youth are needed to develop into the Deaf leaders of the future.

Support groups are needed for youth who are placed in regular schools and require assistance in moving into the Deaf community. Many oral deaf youth need help and encouragement to overcome the difficulties of learning Sign language at this relatively "late" time in their lives.

Particular efforts must be made by all agents — regular schools, Deaf schools, and Deaf organizations — to deal with the social and psychological difficulties facing Deaf youth. Deaf youth are trained into passivity and self-denigration by the fact that non-Deaf people (family, school, medical, etc.) control their fate and make life decisions about them. This must be fought by providing Deaf youth with training and opportunity to develop self-esteem, political skills, leadership, life skills, assertiveness, and communication skills.

Deaf youth need the security of a strong identity, skill in their natural language, and a sense of cultural belonging in order to successfully function in both the Deaf world and the non-Deaf world.



The Canadian Association of the Deaf
303 - 251 Bank Street
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 1X3
(613)565-2882 Voice/TTY
(613)565-1207 Fax

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