(e: Why I do not use the term ‘audism’

Posted on May 9, 2013

Before I discuss racism and ableism in an upcoming blog post, let me explain why I don’t use the term audism.

What is audism?

Gallaudet Univerisity Library offers a few different definitions of this term:

“The notion that one is superior based on one’s ability to hear or to behave in the manner of one who hears.” Tom Humphries, Communicating across cultures (deaf-hearing) and language learning. (Doctoral dissertation. Cincinnati, OH: Union Institute and University,1977), p.12.

“An attitude based on pathological thinking which results in a negative stigma toward anyone who does not hear; like racism or sexism, audism judges, labels, and limits individuals on the basis of whether a person hears and speaks.” Janice Humphrey and Bob J. Alcorn, So you want to be an interpreter?: an introduction to sign language interpreting (Amarillo, TX: H&H Publishers, 1995), p.85.

According to Audism Free America:

Audism is attitudes and practices based on the assumption that behaving in the ways of those who speak and hear is desired and best. It produces a system of privilege, thus resulting in stigma, bias, discrimination, and prejudice—in overt or covert ways—against Deaf culture, American Sign Language, and Deaf people of all walks of life.

People use audism in different ways on the internet. Sometimes it is used carelessly especially during disagreements.

I understand the need for awareness of how deaf and hard of hearing people are discriminated against, especially against individuals whose native languages and preferred communication modes are signed languages (ASL, FSL, BSL, etc.).

From what I can gather, audism seems to be used more often by signing deaf cultured individuals who do not share pathological or medical views with audiologists, speech therapists, and other oral/aural proponents. They do not see themselves as having a disability.

I don’t believe that everyone who discriminates against deaf or hard of hearing individuals, whether they mean to or not, are doing it because they think they are superior to them. Of course there are many people out there who look down on others who use sign language and believe themselves to be better than them. But, sometimes people are simply not aware of deaf and hard of hearing issues and how to interact with deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

So, why won’t I use audism?

A few reasons.

I prefer to use ableism.

Merriam-Webster defines it as discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities

I prefer it because it is simple. Audism does not have a clear and simple definition at this time.

It is discrimination, no matter how the disability is perceived. It is discrimination, whether someone thinks they are better than the individual, too lazy to accommodate the individual, ignorant about the disability, or see the individual and disability as an inconvenience.

Racism includes every race, not just one race. Why not use a term that includes every disability?

Another reason I prefer not to use audism is because it sounds and looks too much like autism. It can be confusing.

I just wanted to explain why I do not use audism. I do not care if others use it or if it appears in a dictionary.

Any questions? Comments? Let me know.

Elizabeth, aka (e, is a hard of hearing itinerant teacher of various mainstreamed deaf and hard of hearing students (prek – 12th grade). She often blogs about her job, life with a hearing loss, and deaf and hard of hearing issues. She also enjoys painting and drawing cartoons when the mood strikes her. Don’t miss her blog at http://www.ehwhathuh.com/ and follow her on Twitter as @dhhitinerant.

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