Prejudice and discrimination comes in many different forms. When people think of either, it is generally in terms of race or gender. Although these are the most commonly recognized forms of bias, they are hardly the only areas in which the preconception of a certain group results in negative and irrational views. Deaf people are an example of another group that also suffers from prejudice. Discrimination against deafness can exist in all areas, including deaf education, and is known as audism.

Audism Defined

Audism is defined as discrimination that is based on a person's ability, or lack of ability, to hear. Because it does not directly affect the hearing community, it is not a form of prejudice that is often discussed. In many cases, people who are not deaf have not heard of audism and may not realize that this form of discrimination exists. In the deaf community however, audism is easily recognized and can be seen as a threat to deaf culture. The term's origins date back to 1977 when it was coined by a man named Tom Humphries. The word was first mentioned in a dissertation written by Humphries entitled, “Communicating Across Cultures Deaf-Hearing and Language Learning.” In his dissertation he defines it as “the notion that one is superior based on one's ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears.”

Audism in the Deaf Community

The practice of audism is not limited to people who have their hearing. In fact, deaf people may also share in these negative thoughts and beliefs. Regardless of whether a person is deaf or otherwise, if he or she believes that deafness equates to inferiority, that person is generally an audist. When a deaf person is an audist, he or she will typically shun deaf culture and believes that people who are hearing and the hearing culture are superior to that of deaf people.

Forms of Audism

Audism may also be found in deaf education and in other corporate institutions and groups that deal with deafness. In these cases, it is believed that the educators, administrators, and professionals within these organizations behave in a way that is meant to dominate or marginalize the deaf community. This may reflect in their attitude towards deaf people and Deaf culture or it may be reflected in their general practice. People who are deaf may feel that institutions are trying to destroy or oppress deaf culture.

Another form of audism is known as Dysconscious audism. Dysconscious audism favors what is normal for the hearing community. This type of audism limits deaf culture and pride. This is done by creating an environment in which deaf people must conform to the ways of hearing society. It greatly impacts deaf education in terms of shunning American sign language in favor of communication that is based on the English language and more acceptable to people who are able to hear.