Friday, May 28, 2010

Deaf coalition opposes California bill about who will provide info to parents of deaf children

From the Stop AB2072 Now! website:

A diverse coalition opposes Assembly Bill 2072, which provides that the point of information about options for deaf babies is to be an audiologist or “other related professional,” because the bill fails to address six key areas. We all recognize the importance of providing information to parents of newly diagnosed deaf babies, but it is our position that this bill is seriously, deeply, grievously flawed. It ensures privatization of deaf babies by wealthy special interest groups.

Deaf stakeholders and allies want the following from any legislation that impacts us: Accountability, Transparency, Inclusiveness, Balance, Comprehensiveness, and Evidence-Based.

AB 2072 would strip accountability from the State of California and put it into the hands of private corporations, foundations, and organizations. This will result in no accountability at all to ensure that information is accurate and balanced.

AB 2072 would remove transparency from the information-giving and referral process by blindly trusting for-profit entities who stand to gain the most if they are put in control of information dissemination.

AB 2072 has not been inclusive. The bill author did not include all key stakeholders in the beginning, insisted on pushing the bill through the Assembly without ensuring that Deaf attendees had proper access, refused to postpone the Assembly vote when this omission was realized, and only promised to meet with Deaf stakeholders as an afterthought. We remain unconvinced that this bill will truly include our input and needs.

AB 2072 is thoroughly unbalanced. Audiologists are trained to diagnose and “fix” problems with speech and hearing. Their training makes them inherently biased in favor of speaking and listening without signing. Their job is, and should be, to simply diagnose babies and to communicate with the state of California in order for a more balanced entity, such as the California Department of Education, to contact parents and provide information.

AB 2072 is far from comprehensive. Comprehensiveness includes the need for accuracy as well as breadth and depth. There are no cued speech programs in California that we are aware of. With extensive research, we were only able to locate one speech pathologist, located in Northern California that uses cued speech, and no programs of any kind. If this is not a viable option, it should not be in the legislation at all. Total communication is not defined in the bill, but in the brochure accompanying it, it defines total communication as speaking and signing at the same time, which is false. Total communication is a philosophy that requires a teacher for the deaf to work with whatever communication modality the child uses.

AB 2072 proposes no real solutions. The current law which is the State’s Newborn Hearing Screening Program involves three state entities, two of which provide information and resources to parents of deaf and hard of hearing children: the California Department of Education, and the Department of Healthcare Services. It requires the provision of written information on the availability of community resources and services for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, including but not limited to those provided by Early Start. The need for comprehensive legislation addressing the gaps and concerns regarding the State Newborn Hearing Screening system as a whole is not resolved in this bill. This bill serves as a band-aid approach with many holes.