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Deaf Organisations Being Run By Hearing People & Competition With Deaf Businesses

A week ago we blogged the first half of an e mail we'd received raising some concerns. Here's the second half:

Talking to some friends the other day, it is clear that there are many hearing people out there working for “deaf organisations” such as Jackie Ballard (RNID) and Tom Fenton (RAD) who say “yes to empowerment for deaf people... but not in our time” – meaning that they purport to support deaf people but not until they retire. That is probably the main reason why they do not support successful deaf businesses such as Remark! (RNID have set up a filming studio to try to compete) or Dering Employment (RAD and RNID both feel threatened by deaf people getting jobs as it no longer justifies the existence of deaf charities)

How can we fight back against hearing people running charities? There seems to be a good number of people commenting on blogs and creating websites such as www.rnih.org.uk and this is to be welcomed but how do we get our issues and concerns into the mainstream? How do we raise awareness of the problems? Has anyone asked the Guardian to do some research into these “deaf organisations” and compared them to other groups such as for women or for GLBT? Is there a template letter/email anywhere that deaf people can use to send to their MP objecting to government funding for RNID, RAD and other hearing run charities?

I would be happy to be involved in something like this but do not have the skills to promote this to the wider community. Perhaps there is a need for a deaf activists website via GOD where people can access campaign material?

Ask the Readers:
What do you think? Do you feel strongly about this, either way? What should be done? Please drop us your thoughts in the comments.

See also:
RNID and Medical Research
Royal National Institute of Hearing: Imagine a World Without Money
The Sickness of Deaf Awareness Week: Imagine A World Without Sound
Debating Subterfuge (Tim Blackwell)
New RNID CEO: Jackie Ballard, Acting CEO Brian Lamb
Vlog on that new Chair appointment
New RNID Chair: Gerald Corbett
Photo Friday: Deaf Chair Now
Low: RNID CEO needn't be deaf or hard of hearing

The Regency: A Deaf Person's View of the RNID
Dishing the Dirt on the RNID
Deaf Organisations & Deaf EmpowermentJohn Maynard Keynes - Friend of the Deaf!
It Could be Australia! No Wait! It is!

Comments (7)

I don't think there is an issue here. Deaf led companies are being successful in winning contracts by selling themselves as ethical businesses; this warms the cockles of any commissioner.

What is interesting is that many of these businesses used to work in charitable organisations; before they start worrying about competition, they should focus on retention of their deaf members of staff. Because, without them, what's the point.

John, There is an issue there. Read the email that was quoted. Read the blog entries linked.

Today, after so many years, the medical/ charity model of deafness remains entrenched and it is working against us. Not for us.

Deaf orgs are supposed to be helping us towards emancipation [however you spell] it, not frigging competing with us!

Hello, this is a very good topic. It's not an issue that is unique to the UK, though. Here in the US it is also a sad fact that most "deaf-serving" organizations and such are predominantly owned by or run by hearing people. This is particularly true of private companies, in addition to the non-profits and the government entities. I suspect it is true in other countries, as well.

I agree with Tony, I think it is naive to say that there is no issue here. Whenever the government want views on deafness or related issues, their first point of call is usually RNID. By fielding OUR calls, the RNID is disempowering us.

Even as a member of RNID, I could not persuade them to have a general forum or e-surgeries with trustees, etc. Keep in mind that we are prevented from representing ourselves at our own organisation. So for RNID to not even have a decent system of second-hand representation is sheer oppression. It is ‘everything about us, without us.’ If we have difficulties with communication, RNID are supposed to make that easier, not harder.

A true friend of deaf people wants us to do things for ourselves, or at least work towards that principle. A fake friend wants to keep us dependent on charity while making money out of us.

Has anybody attempted to draft a template letter? I might try putting one together myself.

Yeah, give us the fishing rod - not the fishes, so we can fish for ourselves. However, drawing up a draft letter template represent only a small but admirable part of the solution. If Government are encouraged not to refer to RNId, who are the viable alternative orgs? The ones that are headed by hearing people? I am sure some will be thinking of BDA. But I am not seeing many moves that they are moving out of their doldrums in great strides. Then again, I am not close to anyone working closely or within BDA. Perhaps someone can enlighten me?

What we really need is a non-afflilated established action group with clear aims, determined lobbyists and, like any successful organisation / company / group, inspirational leadership. A grassroot movement if you like. It seemed like we are all hoping someone else will take the lead and we are looking to charities to represent us. With an active base of supporters visiting Deaf clubs/events/forums, online activists, and lobbyists bending the ears of policticans down at Westminster, it is not impossible to get Government to broaden their options when consulting on Deaf issues and there need to be a coherent and cohesive "voice" for when they do that. Like with great many campaigns of the past, it usualy start with only one person.

I've sent the following letter yo Kevin Brennan, the Minister for the Third Sector. I suggest others write to both him and your MP. Feel free to copy and paste, but don't forget to modify it as appropriate!

Mr Kevin Brennan MP,
Minister for the Third Sector,
The House of Commons,

Dear Mr Brennan,

I am writing to you in your capacity as the Minister for the Third Sector to express my concern as a deaf person that I and other deaf people are being denied a voice.

I have been a member of the principal organisation that represents and works for deaf people, The Royal National Institute for Deaf people for some years and I have become extremely dismayed and frustrated about their apparent refusal to give deaf people a voice. My concern is focussed on two key areas:

RNID do not employ any deaf or hard of hearing people on their senior management team and only 10% of their staff are deaf or hard of hearing. This means that RNID is speaking for us rather than letting us speak for ourselves.

I have tried to persuade RNID to properly consult with deaf people so that we can at least be represented second-hand. Unfortunately they are resistant to even that (diluted) representation. I have suggested that the trustees could hold ‘e-surgeries’ or start a general forum on their website, to no avail.

I would like to ask whether you agree with me that deaf people should have a voice and whether there are any steps you can take to persuade RNID to properly consult with deaf people.

The RNId have apparently made all of their interpreters redundant.

They have also appeared to close down employment services in Bristol/Bath and Birmingham and removed Northern Ireland from their website.


Interesting. I wonder if competition is starting to bite...

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