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Locating Deaf Culture.

Tensions inherent in associations between access and Deaf culture are dramatized in the literacy narrative of Christopher Driscoll, who at the time of the interview for the DALN in 2008, was a young man teaching ASL at Ohio State University (OSU). Central to Driscoll's literacy narrative are his experiences at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, where Driscoll started boarding at the age of five.

On the one hand, attending the residential school gave Driscoll access to Deaf Culture. Here he learned habits of mind and behavior distinctive to Deaf people; he became proficient at sign language, forged fast friendships, and participated in a distinctively Deaf community. Yet because of the physical distance between school and home, this access rendered family and home life inaccessible for weeks at a time. Moreover, traversing the two cultural domains was something Driscoll could do only with the express cooperation of parents and school administrators who coordinated schedules and carpools. Driscoll explains:

I would say it was about two and a half hours drive from home to the Deaf school. But I lived in a dormitory there. [...] I went home about once a month, sometimes two times a month. And that would just be for the weekends. We would take the bus home. And then every two weeks, sometimes my friends who maybe lived close. [...] I had some friends who lived close, at least from the same area, and so we would take turns. Their family would come and pick them up, or come pick us both up and drive us home, and then my parents would take a turn. Maybe two weeks later maybe my parents would come and pick both of us up. (part 1, 8:21-9:28)

Access as it relates to Deaf culture belies a complex dynamic—one involving changing relationships among institutions, attitudes, and people. Driscoll's narrative reminds us that the dynamic between access and Deaf culture is played out not only in broad historical terms, but also in the day-to-day experiences of those affected by changing institutional policies and practices.

In the formation of Deaf culture, residential schools have played a (and many experts argue the) central role, one as controversial as it is complex (Padden and Humphries 37-56). If—as Carol Padden and Tom Humphries claim—residential schools no longer have the hold on students' lives that they had even as recently as during Driscoll's boyhood (35), literacy narratives like Driscoll's shed insight into pervading questions: how is Deaf culture—associated as it is with the role of sign language in everyday lives (1)—not only established but also sustained and accessed? How do institutional practices inform cultural production? How are the bodies and hearts of young people understood and cared for (and perhaps also compromised) in the service not only of creating this distinctive culture but also acculturating young people into it? How do children learn to dwell in the expansive spaces, as well as the cracks and crevices, of such a cultural landscape?

Access and Deaf Culture Access and Technology Access and Discourse
Jane Fernandes Jane Fernandes Brenda Brueggemann
Christopher Driscoll Warren Francis Anonymous

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