Deaf myths debunked: Part I

EASIER_4 Audism: "Can deaf people" on Google Search
“Can deaf people” on Google Search

What are some of the most common myths and misconceptions about deafness that d/Deaf people encounter on a daily basis? In today’s article, we reveal the number one deaf myth and introduce three successful people who prove that deafness is not a disability. Spoiler: d/Deaf people can do everything hearing people do—but hear.

It seems that many hearing people are confused about what d/Deaf people can and cannot do. A simple Google search starting with “can deaf people…” brings up a whole list of surprising questions. We, therefore, thought that it would be a good time to debunk some of the most common myths about d/Deaf people and their capabilities.

Myth 1: Deaf people can’t drive/It’s not safe for deaf people to drive.

EASIER_Deaf can drive

Spoiler: Deaf people are legally allowed to drive and do it safer than hearing drivers.

While it is true that we need good senses to drive, when it comes to navigating the roads, being able to see is far more important than being able to hear. What might surprise you is that, statistically, you are in safer hands sitting in a car with a deaf driver than you are sitting in a car driven by a hearing person. Studies have shown that the peripheral vision of deaf persons is approximately 20% better than that of hearing persons, which ultimately improves their ability to drive.

Famous people who debunk(ed) this myth

Kitty Linn O’Neil (1946 –2018) – known as “the fastest woman in the world”, Kitty was an American stuntwoman and speed racer. A combination of multiple illnesses in infancy affected her hearing ability. When Kitty was two years old, her mother recognized that Kitty could not hear, and she taught her lip-reading and speech. Kitty also contracted spinal meningitis, which spoiled her Olympic diving aspirations. Despite her challenging health condition, she continued being active and pursued water skiing, scuba diving, skydiving, and hang gliding. In her 20s, Kitty was diagnosed with cancer but that did not stop her either. She set 22 speed records on land and water. In her words, “Deaf people can do anything. Never give up. When I was 18, I was told I couldn’t get a job because I was deaf. But I said, someday I’m going to be famous in sports, to show them I can do anything.” O’Neil’s career as a stuntwoman and race driver led to her depiction in a movie and as an action figure. Her absolute land speed record stood until 2019.

Kris Martin (born in 1987) – a Canadian racecar driver. Kris comes from a racing family: his uncle, Warren Coniam and his grandfather, Doug Syer are both in the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame. Being born profoundly deaf has not stopped Kris from pursuing his dream of becoming a top NASCAR racecar driver. He learned to race by using his tactile senses, which has given him a great ability to feel the track and use his instincts. In addition to being a renewed racecar driver, Kris raises awareness about deafness by speaking to children and charities across North America.

Ashley Fiolek (born in 1990) – an American stunt performer and a former professional motocross racer who competed in the AMA Motocross Championships from 2008 to 2012. She is notable for being a four-time AMA women’s motocross national champion. Ashley began racing at age seven. In 2008, she was the first female motocross racer to make the cover of TransWorld Motocross magazine. In 2009, she became the first woman to be signed to the American Honda Racing factory team and was nominated for an ESPN ESPY Award. In 2010, Fiolek published her autobiography, “Kicking Up Dirt: A True Story of Determination, Deafness, and Daring”. Ashley is culturally Deaf and communicates via American Sign Language.

We will debunk another myth on September 13. Stay tuned to learn about successful deaf musicians!

Follow our #DidYouKnowThat campaign to raise your Deaf awareness.

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