Deaf Heart, confidentiality, vagueness, and transparency

There is currently a discourse within the American Deaf community about the resignation of two Deaf members of the board of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). The members who resigned, Lewis Merkin and Naomi Sheneman, say that the confidentiality agreements they signed when they joined the board prevent them from discussing in detail what happened that they felt they had to resign. They say, vaguely, that they were reprimanded for something they did that was a trifling matter within the norms of Deaf culture, and that, in general, they do not feel the RID board has a Deaf Heart. The resigning members, and others who support embracing the values of Deaf Heart and Native View, demand more Deaf leadership in RID and more transparency from RID.

In an attempt to understand the term Deaf Heart, and to catch up on the conversation regarding Deaf members of the RID board, I sought, watched, and collected a playlist of videos about Deaf Heart on YouTube. I also Googled ‘Deaf Heart’ and read and listed two articles below (actually, I had read one of them when it came out last month, and I’m still not sure I understand). I’m sure this is not the complete discourse on Deaf Heart and the Deaf RID board member resignations; this is just all I was able to find. If you know of any other vlogs or blog posts I should add, please let me know. In the meanwhile, I hope these references help others who want to get the news and listen to the discourse.

Each of these videos touches upon the concepts of Deaf Heart and/or Native View, though none of them defines it. The first video in this playlists seeks clarification from the diverse membership of the Deaf community (including Deaf people, interpreters both hearing and deaf, people with Deaf family members, social service providers, and others) about Deaf Heart. Deanna Donaldson, the author of this first vlog, requests answers to four questions about Deaf Heart, and invites vloggers to make additional comments for up to two minutes. Her invitation goes out to Houston, Texas, but as it is on the World Wide Web it is a good prompt for vloggers everywhere, and I encourage people to post video responses. I would like to see what people have to say about this thing called Deaf Heart.

An observation that might make for another whole blog post is the vagueness in which these vloggers couch their discussion of these confidential issues. Anyone who thinks ASL is not a vague language, or there is no vagueness in ASL, will see that people can in fact use ASL to be vague. I invite those who know ASL — which, by the way, you have to do to be able to watch these videos (sorry) — to note the vague language and tell me what you see.

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Author: Daniel Greene

I facilitate communication between Deaf and hearing people, and I teach people American Sign Language (ASL) and interpreting. Apart from doing the work I love, my greatest joys are family & friends, entertainment, food, photography, and travel.

4 thoughts on “Deaf Heart, confidentiality, vagueness, and transparency”

    1. You’re right. I never said ASL was a vague language; I said people can use ASL to be vague. If they couldn’t, ASL wouldn’t be a natural language. ASL is capable of expressing both certainty and vagueness, concreteness and abstraction. It is a strong, healthy language. That’s why it has vague language in it. I do not use “vague language” pejoratively; rather, I celebrate it. I only pointed out that ASL has vague language because some people think there is no vague language in ASL. My goal is to show that there is vague language in ASL so that ASL and ASL-English interpreting teachers, students, and interpreters recognize how vagueness is perceived and expressed in ASL (as well as in English). I wrote my master’s thesis on this: Keeping it vague: A study of vague language in an American Sign Language corpus and implications for interpreting vague language between American Sign Language and English. If you read the abstract, I think you will see what I mean. If you read — or skim through — the thesis paper (free download as a PDF), you will see the vague language I found in ASL and why it’s important.

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