Dear Starkey Hearing Foundation:
Two of the parents from California, Clare Cassidy and Stefanie Ellis, had vividly described their painful experiences at Starkey Hearing Foundation Super Bowl Hearing Mission on February 6th at your Pre-Super Bowl event with Marlee Matlin. California Association of the Deaf (CAD) stands in solidarity with the families of Deaf children in the San Francisco Bay Area. We will allow their words below to state our concerns.
Along with the families of Deaf children in the San Francisco Bay Area, CAD would like to invite Starkey and their spokesperson, Marlee Matlin, to come to the Bay Area for a safe and open dialogue to explore ways on how to make Starkey's future events a more positive experience for families of Deaf children. We believe we can create a win-win solution together.
Excerpt of Clare Cassidy's FB posting:
“I've had few days to digest an unfortunate experience from last Saturday's event… Starkey is an organization that gives out free hearing aids. Awesome, right? Pretty cool to get free aids, as they have this motto, "So that the world may hear." In order to get those free aids…
"It was an experience I wish I never put my boys through, it was quite appalling. When we arrived, (removal of specific individuals out of respect) were their interpreters. When entering, we had to sign a media release form. At first, my husband and I declined and we were informed that we couldn't participate unless signing the release. So, we went ahead (again, not even knowing what was expected).
As soon as we went into the building, we were shocked. There was a stage and on that stage, 3 stools for each person to sit on. On each stool, there was a team of cameras (video and photography)- I'm not kidding, like 8 cameramen per stool. A person who was to receive the hearing aid would sit there and be filmed on their getting the aids. There were celebrities for each, who would "speak" into their ears and cheer whenever the person acknowledged hearing the sound. After that, tons of photos and cameras being few inches away from their faces with a kid (A KID) putting a gold medal necklace around the person.
We were told that we couldn't get hearing aids for our boys unless they went on stage and were filmed. There was no way we were going to allow our boys to be subjected to such exploitation. So, we left."
After Cassidy's experience, there was an outpour of what is called "inspiration porn" media, with degrading language, which derailed from the Whole Deaf Child concept like the following article with 50 cents:
The article said:
"50 Cent led the charge on Saturday, February 6 for the 2016 Starkey Hearing Foundation Super Bowl Hearing Mission where he and several other famous faces gifted kids inflicted with hearing impairments with state-of-the-art hearing aids."
FYI, Deaf children are not inflicted with hearing impairments. However, some of them are severely language deprived because the system would not allow or delayed in giving them access to a language, namely, American Sign Language (ASL). Language deprivation is an infliction.
CAD recommends a better way to frame this. Let’s start saying, "Deaf children were given hearing aids. We were amazed to see their level of intelligence and critical thinking skills made possible by giving them bilingualism, ASL and English during the first five years of their lives."
This article is another form of inspiration porn by calling the children "Hearables." Even with the hearing aids, they are still Deaf. They are perfect as they are. Just call them Deaf children.
Please do not call those Deaf children "patients." They are not ill, nor do they need fixing in any form.
The two articles above are just examples of how the stigma of Deaf children continues to have a stronghold with the culture of patriarchy and inspiration porn. There was no mention about the importance of ending language deprivation by giving the children both ASL and English.
This website www.ASL4DeafKids.org can give you some insights of how Starkey can become partners with the Deaf community through California Association of the Deaf to end the national epidemic of language deprivation among many Deaf children in America.
Hearing aids will not end language deprivation. American Sign Language can. We cannot afford to have the recent media spotlight on hearing aids become a "red herring" for the true tragedy that's happening in our own nation.
Another parent of the bay area, Stefanie Ellis released an open letter to Starkey to share her concerns regarding the February 6th situation.
Stephanie Ellis' open letter to the Starkey Foundation
February 10, 2016
I am the mother of two boys who received free hearing aids from the Starkey Foundation at San Francisco State University last aturday. While we are appreciative of the opportunity to obtain the latest high-tech devices that were distributed to all who attended, I feel compelled to write about what we experienced that day and to share my insight. Truth be told, we were taken aback by the overall frenzy and atmosphere of the event. The absence of cultural awareness and sensitivity toward the Deaf community was disgraceful given that we comprise your customer base. The focus was exclusively on whether the deaf or hard-of-hearing child could pick up sound; what was most appalling is the clear lack of regard for early language development for those children.
Please let us know when would be a good time for us to meet to explore ways to create empowering and healthy framings of the whole Deaf child to introduce to the media. We can be reached through our President Julie Rems-Smario, JulieSmario@gmail.com and our Secretary, Deanne Bray, firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a day and time for this meeting. Thank you.
CAD Board of Directors
Julie Rems-Smario, President
Marla Hatrak, Vice President
Deanne Bray, Secretary
Dodi Ellis, Treasurer
Matthew Sampson, Director of Membership
Shelley Stout, Director-at-Large, Northern California
Kavita Pipalia, Director-at-Large, Southern California