In Defence of Dimity

CanelDimity has upset Deaf people again. She seems to have this unfailing ability to say things that will send the Deaf community into fits of indignation. There is an article on Yahoo News about baby Worrell. Baby Worrell is deaf and has received two cochlear implants. Said Dimity, “It’ll be as if his whole life has changed from black and white into rainbow,”[1]  This is Dimity at her best; aiming for the heartstrings. It is no surprise that she follows this up by explaining that increasing demand for the services of the Hear and Say Centre’s means they are $2 million short.  “I don’t want to have to turn parents away,” bemoans Dimity.

In October 2011 I wrote an article about Dimity.[2] In this article I made an amateur attempt to understand how her mind works. People may recall that Dimity upset the Deaf community then by calling deafness a scourge. I suggested at the time that Dimity was quite calculated in the things that she says. She is a master business woman and manipulator.  She plays on the message that people who are deaf are broken and need to be fixed. She knows that most of the public agree with her and she aims for their heart. She is not so worried about upsetting the Deaf community because she knows that when the Deaf community cry foul and try to promote Deafness in a positive way, most of the public simply cannot relate. I said at the time, and it still rings true today, People know hearing but they don’t know deaf and indeed they don’t want to. To them hearing is normality; deafness deficit. When we all scream GENOCIDE it plays right into Dimity’s hands. To most Australians deafness is something that needs to be fixed like cancer.”

As much as many in the Deaf community despise her, Dimity is not a bad person. She believes in what she does. She believes that all children should be able to hear and she wants to provide the very best service. She doesn’t fear upsetting the Deaf community because she knows that the negative response that she will get will generally just garner her more support in the wider community. She simply wants to draw attention to the things that the Hear and Say Centre do. She wants the very best for the people that she serves. We cannot blame her for that.

I, like many people, get frustrated at the way deafness is constantly misrepresented. I hate it that sign language is still classified as an inferior language. I hate it that people cannot or will not understand that sign language will enhance language acquisition for deaf kids; even those with cochlear implants. But I don’t hate Dimity, even though I once callously christened her Dimwitty. She is simply working hard for something that she strongly believes in. I wish she would do it differently, but one has to admire her passion and drive.

One has to accept that cochlear implants have benefitted many kids who are deaf. Cochlear implants have provided a generation of deaf kids with access to sound and spoken language. At their best they work brilliantly. That said, cochlear implants do have limitations. It’s still hard to hear with noisy backgrounds. Hearing in large groups is still difficult. Enjoyment of music is variable. Despite all these limitations one has to accept that Cochlear Implants have provided immense benefit to many deaf kids.

Recently I have been exploring having a cochlear implant. My cochlear implant journey is actually quite well advanced.  I have had the interview. I have had the hearing test. I have seen the specialist. Next in line are the balance test and the MRI. I have been very impressed with the professionalism of the Cochlear Implant clinic in Melbourne. I can tell you that when you are assessed for an implant they are totally honest with you. They provide you with information about the benefits and limitations of the Implant. They tell you it enhances lip-reading ability. They let you know of possible side effects. They point out certain situations where the Implant will not be beneficial. They explain that enjoyment of music varies from person to person. They even provide information about the benefits of learning Auslan.

Unlike the media, who hype the cochlear implant to the hilt, the Cochlear Implant Clinic does not. Sure they believe in it but they also do not want to give false hope. They let you know that the benefits from the implant come with many hours of hard work and training and that it will not be easy.

This is where Dimity comes in. She knows as well as most people that for the implant to benefit the child the training and support has to be the very best. There are no cutting corners. To provide this high quality service costs money. Dimity needs this money and she will work her butt off to get it. Yeah I wish she would be more positive about deafness generally and be more of an advocate for the use of Auslan. Even so, Dimity thorough her hard work is ensuring a generation of deaf kids with implants get the best possible support that money can buy. Whole heartedly or grudgingly, you have to admire her for that.

As a matter of interest, a friend returning from the recent Deaflympics in Bulgaria commented on how many participants had cochlear implants. I can’t recall exactly, but I think he may have suggested around 50% of participants had cochlear implants. That has not stopped them becoming part of the Deaf community has it? Amusingly my friend suggested that many were keen to improve their sign language skills before the next Deaflympics so that they could better interact with the opposite sex.

It just goes to show that wherever there are deaf people they will find each other. Deafness, even with a cochlear implant, can be isolating and lonely. It is for this reason that deaf people will nearly always seek each other out. Perhaps we fear Dimity a wee bit too much. Perhaps in the future we need to react smarter to her obvious marketing ploys.

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