LEAD-K Open Letter TO AGBell Organization


September 20, 2017 

Emilio Alonso-Mendoza, CEO 
Joni Alberg, Public Policy Consultant 

Alexander Graham Bell Association 
3417 Volta Place, NW Washington, DC 20007

(via email)

Dear Mr. Alonso-Mendoza and Ms. Alberg: 

On behalf of LEAD-K (Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Children – Kindergarten-Readiness), a national grassroots campaign promoting state legislation to end language deprivation, I am writing to express our concerns about your actions and to make a request. 

The Alexander Graham Bell (AGB) organization’s actions were undertaken to intimidate legislators, many of whom know very little about the Deaf Community and its challenges, even though there were Deaf state leaders working with them on the LEAD-K bills. This disruption created confusion for legislators who initially supported our LEAD-K bill. Your strategy was to ensure the bill to be either killed or dropped. We have correspondence from your office targeting states where LEAD-K legislation was introduced and with your association state chapters to pursue your “kill the bill “strategy. 

State Deaf Leaders have worked with parents and other stakeholders to create a win-win situation for all concerned. These leaders worked hard to educate legislators on the need to put an end to language deprivation, an epidemic that exists across the nation. The key to the entire LEAD-K bill is to build blocks for Kindergarten-readiness success toward eventual competency in English literacy. However, your people seem to have no intention of working with us, only against us. Instead of directly addressing your subversion we chose to create “Mythbusters” to share with legislators. We should have been more direct dealing with your negative actions. 

Furthermore, AGB actively blocks all efforts to become collaborative with the Deaf Community and continues to force an “US vs THEM” mentality regarding spoken English vs American Sign Language. You may have fooled some legislators, but you have not fooled us. Legislators hate being lied to, and we are prepared to show the truth vs your ambiguous “listening and speaking language” claims that have nothing to do with our bill. The focus of our bill is language acquisition. 

Now you are pushing a bill of your own. Oddly, it is clearly a twisted version of our LEAD-K bill. In fact, it inserts and promotes your brand of oral communication for all deaf children - “listening and spoken language.” Legislation should not include “brands.” Instead, the focus of LEAD-K is on languages most commonly used by Deaf children - American Sign Language and English. Your mirrored bill alters the focus to be on communication modalities used under the English language, only inserting ASL as secondary, last resort option. This is not acceptable, nor should it be to legislators as well. 

It is sad to consider that your organization seems not to have evolved with the times and is mired in the concept put forth more than a hundred years ago – to abolish sign language and Deaf people! In 1884, Alexander Graham Bell published a paper, “Upon the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race,” in which he warned of a great calamity facing the nation: deaf people were forming clubs, socializing with one another and consequently marrying other deaf people. The creation of a “deaf race” that yearly would grow larger and more insular was underway. Bell noted that a “special language adapted for the use of such race was already in existence as different from English, as French or German or Russian”. Some eugenicists called for legislation outlawing intermarriage by deaf people, but Bell rejected such ban as impractical. Instead he proposed the following steps: “(1) Determine the causes that promote intermarriages among the deaf and dumb; and (2) remove them. The causes he sought to remove were sign language, deaf teachers, and residential schools. His solution was the creation of special day schools is taught by hearing teachers who would enforce a ban on sign language. (Excerpt from Through Deaf Eyes, PBS, March 2007). 

This letter is being sent to you with one main purpose: to request that you back down, and take a walk in our shoes. Show respect for Deaf Leaders who are working on LEAD-K legislation. This is a grassroots effort with many stakeholders, including those who use American Sign Language, English-only, and both. The legislation has nothing to do with promoting one over the other, but rather its focus is on language acquisition for Kreadiness. Your attempts to thwart this intent with tactics geared to confuse legislators’ needs to end. 

It is common courtesy when one has issues with a bill, to contact the originators of the legislation to see what can be worked out. At no time have you ever made any attempt to contact the national LEAD-K team. Our website has a Contact Us form, and yet, not one message! Therefore, I am initiating a national media campaign to educate both the Deaf and Hearing Communities on the issue and choices available to all Deaf children. It doesn’t need to be a war, which in our case, we would be the David before your Goliath. 

AGB, your actions perpetuate Bell’s stance, a 133-year old outdated mindset. Instead of fighting us and trying to DISEMPOWER a Deaf-led movement, AGB should be acknowledging that language deprivation exists and coming to terms with ways to promote ASL and English languages that benefit Deaf children. 

We would welcome the opportunity to better inform you, and should you decide you would like to work with LEAD-K and state Deaf leaders, please by all means, contact me. 

Sincerely, Sheri A Farinha, MA National Campaign Director www.lead-k.org 

*This letter is being sent in written English, and an ASL version is also posted on our website. 

Hands and Voices – CA chapter 
National Black Deaf Advocates 
National Asian Deaf Congress 
National Council de Manos 
Nyle DiMarco Foundation 
National Technical Institute for the Deaf 
Purple Communications & Z VRS 
Gallaudet University Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf 
State LEAD-K Teams 
Sorenson VRS CODA, Inc. 
Convo Relay 
Deafhood Foundation 
California Association of the Deaf 
Association of Sign Language Instructors 
Communication Service for the Deaf Inc (CSD) 
California Coalition of Option Schools 
American Association of Parents with Deaf Children (ASDC) 
California Coalition of Agencies Serving the Deaf & Hard of Hearing California State University, Northridge/National Center on Deafness 
Center for Education and Intervention for Deaf Children 
National Association of the Deaf, its State Associations & Local Affiliates Conference of Educators and Administrators of Schools & Programs Serving the Deaf
Global Relay
DeafWomen United
Global Deaf Women
We The Deaf People

Attachments area

Jay Krieger, CDI, Translation from Eng